National speech stars soar again. Eight local students headed for national speech tournament this month

Eagle Valley's Lydia Loupe, left, and Battle Mountain's Hailea Stone both qualified for their third straight trip to the national speech and debate tournament. This year's is later this month in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Special to the Daily

Imagine talking with a roomful of teenagers for 30 minutes and not one of them says “like,” or anything like “like.”

Eagle Valley High School is sending a school record five competitors to the national speech and debate tournament.

Battle Mountain High School is sending three.

Between the two schools, when they arrive in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, later this month they’ll have 12 nationals appearances, including three each by Eagle Valley’s Lydia Loupe and Battle Mountain’s Hailea Stone. That’s one each by the other six local national qualifiers. We did the math so you won’t have to.

Three-time national qualifiers

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In April, Stone made it through to the NIETOC quarterfinals — National Individual Events Tournament of Champions — the first local speech and debater to do it. That makes this month’s nationals Stone’s second trip to a national tournament in two months.

In between, she appeared in the TEDxYouth@Vail, taking a tough-minded perspective of life in our happy valley.

Stone is returning to the nationals for the third time in original oratory. Same event, but different material.

“This one is about listening when it matters,” Stone said.

She was going to write a speech about the fear of public speaking.

“I don’t like public speaking,” the three-time national qualifier said.

A week before their first meet this season, she decided to change the topic. She realized that around the valley, the school, “basically everywhere, listening is a problem,” Stone said.

She talks and sings for 10 minutes, exuding her standard brilliance juxtaposed against misheard song lyrics. “Rock And Roll All Night” by Kiss and several others are often misheard and lampooned.

It’s part of Stone’s plan to encourage us to “listen to understand, instead of listening to respond.”

Stone started speaking in public in fifth grade. The first gig was the Eagle County School’s Evening of the Stars awards night for teachers. Then it was public speaking class in middle school, and she kept at it through high school.

This is Loupe’s third trip to nationals after qualifying in informative speaking for the third straight year. If something works, then you stick with it. She’s a junior.

Her Eagle Valley teammates sometimes ask what nationals are like

“Now that we have so many people going, everyone will know,” she said.

Competing is great, but she said speech and debate teaches you to speak intelligently with people.

“It helps give me more confidence in what I have to say. It’s a life skill,” Loupe said.

Speech is not scary

It has been said by some pretty smart people that humans fear public speaking more than death. These speechifiers are all really smart, and they don’t believe that statement.

Eagle Valley sophomore Caroline Dewell qualified for nationals in humorous interpretation.

“It can be very scary to get up in front of a roomful of people, whether they’re friends or not,” Dewell said. “You learn that you can overcome those fears. Before this year, I was scared to do humor interp. I was afraid I would get up there, no one would laugh and I’d be humiliated.

“But I’m here now and I’ve realized that I can create my characters and voices, and I can make people laugh. You just have to have a little self-confidence.”

Dewell’s presentation is “Little Suzy Sues God for All He’s Worth.” A bunch of bad stuff happened to Suzy and she asks why God did this to her. A lawyer from hell appears (insert your own lawyer jokes here) and declares “We’re gonna sue God!” And they do. It’s a conundrum.

Like the Bible it’s loosely based on, it ends with a revelation.

“If you believe God has no worth, and you sue God, you get nothing,” Dewell said.

World Schools debaters

Battle Mountain’s Hannah Nelson and Graziella Pierangeli qualified for World Schools Debate, a 3-on-3 battle of brains. Their five-person team is composed of Nelson and Pierangeli, Eagle Valley’s Tobin Stone and a pair from Summit High School.

They’ll debate six resolutions, They get to take three resolutions with them, all researched, sewed up and ready to go, things like whether protectionist trade polices are a good idea or if corporations should be allowed to contribute to political campaigns and candidates and stemming the reach of artificial intelligence. The other three topics they get in Florida, when they’re in the crosshairs and heat of battle. They have an hour to do their research and prepare both sides of the topic they’re assigned.

They don’t know quite what to expect, except it will be fun, they said.

Eagle Valley’s Alissa Barry earned her way to nationals by winning a state title in humorous interpretation, the first for the Eagle Valley senior. To win her state title, she humorously interpreted “Moon Raker Madness,” a short play.

Riley Dudley won his state title in value debate. Basically, the speech and debate powers that be give you a subject. They do not tell you whether it’s supposed to be a monumentally good or bad idea. You have 30 minutes to prepare.

Like Congress, only better

John Papadopoulos is headed to nationals in congressional debate. It doesn’t really work like congress, because the speech and debate event actually works.

“It’s like congress, but more effective,” Papadopoulos said, laughing.

In the state meet, he argued in favor of a bill supporting alternative energy research.

“It’s fun. I now have friends from all over the state through speech and debate. I can walk into a roomful of friends and make them laugh, and they’ll make you laugh,” Eagle Valley’s Barry said.

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

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