High school debaters talk tough
EAGLE-VAIL – Children should be seen AND heard – Battle Mountain High School speech team members wear that message across their backs on team T-shirts. The team has competed for the last 18 years under the direction of coach Suzanne Foster. In addition to being a popular teacher at the school, Foster has coached speech and served as the director of countless drama productions. This year, Foster had some help with the team from teachers Phil Qualman and Matt Sargent. Captains were Kelsey Abbott, Kayla Cheatham, Jonathan Kerby and Rolena Richardson. Some of the team’s 32 members debate in competitions and 15 debaters lettered this year. Students in speech competitions take acting and speaking roles, choosing public forum or solo debate.After competing in a multitude of meets from September to the end of January, the team traveled to the state competition in Denver.
And students on the team are passionate about the club at the school. Freshman Emma Szindler joined after older students recommended it. She had already worked with Foster on various productions. “Being on the team was a lot of fun,” Szindler says. “It’s nerve-racking at every competition, but it’s great. It’s different than acting in a production because energy levels and attitudes change.”Junior Chelsea Buniger is a three-year veteran on the team and says she still enjoys it. “States weekend is the best and we meet so many people from around the state by being on this team,” she says.All of the members agree that a lot of confidence and a lot of practice contribute to a successful season.
“We had an excellent year,” says Foster, who adds that one highlight was the November meet in Strasburg, where individuals swept the first through fourth places in every event. “That’s never happened before,” Foster says. Foster also credits coach Qualman with the team’s improvements. Next year’s team also looks promising with only nine seniors leaving the group. McCleese Stephens and Kelsey Abbott are two of those seniors. Stephens competed all four years, while Abbott started as a sophomore. Both are attending college in the fall. McCleese will study film, TV and radio. “The entire year was fun, but one highlight was seeing Gypsy at the Dinner Theater in Denver during states weekend,” Abbott says.
Some students initially join the team in order to list the extracurricular activity on their college resumes. But after participating, the benefits are far greater, says sophomore Katie Denton. Denton’s acting has improved and she plans to try debate next year, she says. “It’s a lot different than performing in the way that you’re competing with different kids and you have to work with the audience,” Denton says. Vail, Colorado