Battle Mountain speech team members qualify for nationals |

Battle Mountain speech team members qualify for nationals

Woody Brook and Maggie Shaffer perform a selection from "Horton Hears a Who" by Dr. Seuss while other members of the Battle Mountain Debate Team look on. Brook and Shaffer are moving on to the nationals.
Anthony Thornton | |

EDWARDS — A pair of Battle Mountain High School students will lock rhetorical horns with the nation’s best as they take shot at a national speech title.

Maggie Shaffer and Woody Brook won their division in the national qualifiers and will take a shot at a national title later this month — after both seniors graduated high school.

They compete in duo interpretation with their hilarious version of “Horton Hears a Who.” And, yeah, Horton might have heard a Who, but not like this.

Somewhere Dr. Seuss is smiling.

“Our team was much louder than we were. We were speechless.”
Maggie Shaffer

They finished second at the state meet, good enough for a spot in the national qualifiers. They won that one, so off to Overland Park, Kansas, they go for a shot at a national title.

At nationals they can’t touch, use chairs or props, or look at each other, which they say doesn’t seem exactly fair.

“Everyone else gets to look at us,” Brook said smiling.

They had to rework a few things, but basically it’s the same performance that got them there.

Ups and downs

In the national qualifier, they competed in a division that includes northern Colorado and the Front Range — big schools, 14 of them.

The judges give them ups and downs. The top three get ups and everyone else gets downs, the same way Caesar used to do it, except in speech no one gets thrown to the lions, not even linguistic lions.

In duo interpretation, the same three teams got ups, including Shaffer and Brook, so they all went straight to the finals. They were at the school by 8 a.m. that Saturday morning and waited until 4 p.m. to perform.

The awards ceremony started at 10 p.m.

The finalists were called to the stage and everyone got to see every reaction. After finishing second in the state meet they won the national qualifier, but they didn’t expect to.

“Woody and I were expecting to finish second,” Shaffer said. “In fact, we stepped forward when they called second place. Then we heard them say Rocky Mountain High School, and we just looked at each other.”

It’s sort of like the winner of the Miss Universe pageant. They announce second place and you know the winner is you.

“This was the proudest moment I’ve had in high school,” Shaffer said.

They jumped up and down. They laughed. They cried — eventually.

“Our team was much louder than we were,” Shaffer said. “We were speechless.”

Not all that speechless. Brook and Shaffer have been doing this together so long that they complete each other’s sentences.

Said Shaffer: “When we took first they weren’t exactly … ”

“Thrilled,” Brook said grinning.

“You should have heard us,” said Jordan Farr. Farr won the state meet and finished second at the national qualifiers, so if someone doesn’t go to nationals, she will.

Shaffer is headed to High Point University in North Carolina. Brook said thanks but no thanks to a full ride Boettcher Scholarship for a Colorado school and will follow his dream to Brigham Young University.

Trying to reason with speech season

Speech and debate season officially starts in October with Battle Mountain’s home meet, but the kids start putting together material in September. The state finals are in late January.

Their coaches love this stuff and these kids, says Battle Mountain coach Diane Wagener. On the other hand, they get to spend entire weekends with a few dozen teenagers in Limon and Brush.

Eventually, all seasons end. Once you’re done playing high school basketball, chances are no one is ever going to ask you to slam dunk again. But if you’re intelligent and eloquent, you’re intelligent and eloquent forever.

“It makes you a better communicator; everyone should do speech,” Farr said.

“It helps you understand that whatever you say, say it with confidence,” Brook said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

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