The Jackson Hole Speech and Debate team. Photo: Londe Gagnon

JACKSON, Wyo. —The Jackson Hole High School Speech and Debate team competed at nationals this year, with an unprecedented 13 qualifiers.

The tournament hosted over 8200 entries and saw 1315 schools in attendance. Although all of the JHHS students had some great showings in preliminary rounds, the team’s efforts were headlined by several advancing entries.

Senior and outgoing team captain, Josh Hansen joined junior and upcoming team captain, Will Aepli in Public Forum Debate where they advanced three times past the preliminary rounds. Their advancement to round nine is the furthest any JHHS PF team has made it in this event at the National Tournament. They spent the nine rounds arguing both sides of whether or not social media is beneficial for democratic values in the U.S.

Aepli went on to impress in Editorial Commentary where he reached the quarterfinals. Hansen reached the octofinal round in the same event.

Both Aepli and Hansen also found success in Prepared Prompt speaking where they advanced to the double octofinal round. Hansen went on to reach the double octofinals in a new event this year called Pro Con Challenge where students must present a recorded speech showing both sides of an argument.

Extemporaneous Debate has long been an event where JHHS students shine at the National tournament and this year was no exception. This event allows students only 30 minutes to prepare after receiving a new topic for each round.

Junior and upcoming team captain Carter Worcester went undefeated in the preliminary rounds of the event. After preliminary rounds, the event follows a double-elimination format. Worcester advanced through three eliminations, making it through round seven. Hansen reached round six in the event while sophomore Alexis Hernandez made it to round five. Worcester also performed well in storytelling where he reached double octofinals.

The Jackson Hole High School Speech and Debate team contributed to an all-around great year for Wyoming at the national tournament. Wyoming’s best performances at nationals were by Cheyenne East High School’s senior Jayden Roccaforte, who was crowned as the 2021 National Champion in Poetry, followed closely behind by Andrew Kern from Laramie who placed second in the event.

Points earned at the National tournament contributed to Hansen’s #2 ranking in the nation among speech and debate competitors. Aepli enters the 2021-2022 season in ninth place overall. Two Jackson students, Aepli and Lily Briggs, earned the NSDA Academic All-American award this year.

Both of the Jackson coaches also received special recognition at the national tournament. Londe Gagnon was selected to judge the final round of United States Extemporaneous Speaking and Peggy Gagnon was chosen to judge the finals of Lincoln-Douglas debate. Londe Gagnon was also recognized for her role as the Wind River District chair, earning a bronze award from the National Speech and Debate Association.

Although the online tournament format had its challenges, it was a rewarding and educational experience overall for the Jackson team.

Lindsay Vallen is a Community News Reporter covering a little bit of everything; with an interest in politics, wildlife, and amplifying community voices. Originally from the east coast, Lindsay has called Wilson, Wyoming home since 2017. In her free time, she enjoys snowboarding, hiking, cooking, and completing the Jackson Hole Daily crosswords.