Wildcats going for 13th consecutive state title

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Columbia Falls High School Speech and Debate team is looking at lucky 13 in consecutive state titles if it wins the Class A state tournament held Friday and Saturday in Corvallis.

The team is going in strong with only two losses this season to Whitefish High School Speech and Debate, said Columbia Falls Head Coach Tara Norick.

“Whitefish is consistently strong competition and so is the top team from the Eastern Division, Laurel. They have gone undefeated this year on the Eastern side of the state,” Norick said.

If divisionals is telling of the team’s performance in speech and debate events, then it’s strong across the board, she said.

“We placed first or second at divisionals in all events except Extemporaneous Speaking and LD [Lincoln-Douglas] Debate, where we had two or three in the top eight. We also have 10 returning seniors who understand the level of competition at the state tournament,” Norick said.

She listed several students who are expected to have top performances, including: Cassidy Norick and Kelsey Wright in Public Forum Debate; Danielle Schwalk and Shyane Williams in Policy Debate; returning state champion Ava Chisholm in Humorous Interpretation and Impromptu Speaking; Jacob Hohman in Informative Speaking; Jordyn King in Dramatic Interpretation and Memorized Public Address; and Emma Erickson also in Memorized Public Address.

Whitefish High School Head Coach Sara Mueller said this year’s team “can run with the best,” which she said is the “well-coached powerhouse” Columbia Falls.

The fairly young team has made strides this season, according to Mueller.

“I am impressed to be bringing along a large contingency of freshman and sophomores who have made a solid name for themselves across the season, representing over half the team,” she said. “I am excited about the future of this team. Freshmen Ali Hirsch and Dani Mayeaux, Policy Debate; Abigail Bowden, Extemporaneous Speaking; and Lucy Schindler, Dramatic Interpretation have all been tournament champions at least once during the season and, along with divisional runner-up champion, Danika Tintzman, Humorous Interpretation, represent the strength of our young team.”

And she noted the more seasoned competitors who are poised to perform: “Policy debaters and seniors Ian Caltabiano and Zach Ade are looking to cap off the end of great careers with a state run after a divisional championship. Divisional champion Grace Benkelman, Memorized Public Address, is also peaking at the right time.”

She anticipates debate competitors to do well at state, noting that their performances have been consistent all season. However, with three divisional finalists in Dramatic Interpretations, she anticipates some good results there, as well.

“We see ourselves as primed and ready for several individual championships,” Mueller said.

In Class B-C, Bigfork High School Speech and Debate team is headed to Huntley Project to find out if it can talk its way to the top.

The Class B team finished second at state last season to Loyola Sacred Heart, which racked up its 34th consecutive title. Bigfork Head Coach Charlie Appleby said Three Forks may also be a tough contender.

The Bigfork team has focused its efforts this season on honing its debate team in efforts to up the ante when competing against Loyola.

“Last year we finished second at state but were absolutely destroyed by Loyola in debate,” Appleby said. While he thinks Loyola has put extra effort into shaping its speech team, “We will see how that all plays out at state.”

“We are very strong in Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Informative, Impromptu and Extemporaneous, and I would not be surprised to see KC Isaman have a chance at a state title,” he said. “Where we have to be better this year to have even a glimmer of a chance at unseating Loyola is in Policy Debate. Our record looks good at divisionals, but we have a long road to winning at state.”

In addition to listing Isaman as a contender in Spontaneous Interpretation and Cole Hider in Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Bigfork will gain strength from some returning state champions: Anya Young, Informative Speaking; Reuben Hubbard, Impromptu Speaking; and Riley Hoveland, Extemporaneous Speaking.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

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