Vail Valley students hone speech skills |

Vail Valley students hone speech skills

Suzanne Foster
Special to the Daily
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Imagine Kansas City in June: hot, humid, lush and green. Imagine more than 5,000 high school students with their coaches and/or parents and families descending upon Kansas City June 14 for a week of intense competition. Imagine thousands of variations on the “competitive uniform” – for the men, a two- or three- piece suit with a tie and for the women, a suit with skirt or pants; the suits were predominantly black in color although pinstriped, gray and navy blue suits were common. The poise, focus and determination of these young people were tangible as they strove to break into the top 60 in their chosen event.

For the third time since becoming a member of the National Forensic League in 2000, Battle Mountain High School (and Eagle County School District) was represented; this year, Bailey Garton earned the right to compete at the National level in “humorous interpretation” and Aaron Szindler, who also competed at nationals last year with Gina Lovell in “duo interpretation,” earned the right to compete at the national level in “original oratory.” Competitors are guaranteed six rounds of competition, two judges per round, with students from over 900 schools, then their scores are totaled to eliminate all but the top 60. Szindler was competing against 250 other orators and Garton was competing against 260 other humorous interpreters; they met students from all over the United States as well as from Korea and Guam the first two days of competition.

While neither Garton not Szindler broke into the top 60, they enjoyed their journey and competition. Szindler, a 2010 graduate of Battle Mountain High School, claimed that: “It would be a long time before I wear a suit again.” Garton “learned a lot and can’t wait to compete next year.”

My duties included chauffeur, meal provider, cheerleader and judge. The rules at nationals are quite strict; there was no student from Colorado in any of the rounds I judged. Between rounds, I read, talked with fellow coaches, touched base with Szindler and Garton. I was in the same building with Szindler while Garton was competing in the same event as a Steamboat Springs student at a different school; the Steamboat coach was Garton’s onsite contact during the first two days. I watched competitors pace with headsets on, talk to walls as they practiced their pieces and talk intently with and receive additional coaching from their coaches. As we waited for the posting of the Top 60, tension mounted; lines formed and students and coaches cheered as results from the other buildings were texted or called in.

Both Garton and Szindler were entered in “supplemental events,” but these were anticlimactic as both were looking forward more to watching the finals in their respective events.

Imagine the KCI Expo Center set up with thousands of chairs, bleachers, platforms and a stage with three large screens. Imagine more than 5,000 students with their coaches, families rushing to get “a good seat” for the beginning of the final rounds. Imagine the hush as the top six competitors performed in each event (humor, drama and duo on Thursday; oratory, extemp speaking and debate on Friday). After each round of finals, students ranked 7 to 14 were brought up on stage to receive congratulations and a trophy. Imagine these young men and women, still in suits, still poised and realizing that they are the best of the best.

We flew back to Denver on Friday night, tired but proud; the journey to the national competition is long and intense. On behalf of this year’s competitors, thanks to Mike Gass, Phil Qualman and Will Comerford for helping ease some of the financial burden of this trip. Next year’s national competition will take place in Dallas, Texas, and Garton plans to be there. Just imagine.

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