JHHS Team Makes a Strong Showing at National Speech and Debate Tournament

It was a good week for the eight qualifying members of the Jackson Hole High School Speech and Debate Team that traveled to Dallas, Texas last week.

They were competing in the National Speech and Debate Association’s National Tournament, held June 17-21. On the roster representing the Wind River NSDA district were seniors Leila Sandlin and Samantha Smith, juniors Warren Levy and Maleah Tuttle, sophomore Josh Hansen, and freshmen William Aepli, Virginia Girling and Anna Revill. The team is coached by Londe and Peggy Gagnon.

Sandlin, competing in Program Oral Interpretation, performed extremely well. In a field of 239 competitors, she reached the top 60 but was knocked out in the octa-final round. Her achievement is a milestone for the JHHS team in the interpretation category as this is the first time a student from the team has reached out rounds in the event. Her program combines prose, poetry, and drama to explore the controversial issue of the rape and party culture that is prevalent in high schools.

Hansen, Girling and Aepli all brought home impressive finishes in Congressional Debate. In an event that advanced the top 6 competitors from each preliminary chamber, Hansen and Girling narrowly missed the break with their 8th and 7th place finishes respectively. Aepli had the closest call of all with his tie for 6th place, but he missed advancing based on a tie-breaker.

Leila Sandlin made it to the octa-final round in her category, which is a milestone for JHHS. Photo: Lyle Wiley, Wyoming State Forensics Association

Smith performed solidly in Informative Speaking with her speech on the Media. She went on to perform quite well in her supplemental event, Extemporaneous Debate, making it to round 5 in the double-elimination event. Aepli also made it to round 5 in the event while Hansen made it to round 4.

Levy and Tuttle made strong showings in their Extemporaneous Speaking events. Though they did not advance to out rounds, Levy went on to make it to round 5 in his supplemental event of Extemporaneous Commentary. Tuttle made it past the first cut in her consolation event of Impromptu Speaking.

Revill joined four other Speech and Debate members from the Wind River District to compete in World Schools Debate. The team represented the District well but unfortunately did not advance beyond the preliminary rounds. Revill did go on to advance past the first cut in Impromptu Speaking along with Hansen.

Coach Peggy Gagnon was chosen for the prestigious honor of judging not one, but two final rounds at the tournament. She lent her expertise to the World Schools Debate finals as well as the Poetry finals. Coach Londe Gagnon was recognized at the tournament for her role as the Wind River District Chairperson, and was awarded for having 100% retention for schools competing at the District tournament where students qualify for the National Tournament.

“All eight competitors represented JHHS well and worked together as a group to advance,” Coach Londe Gagnon said. “We look forward to the promise our young team holds. Their performances at the National tournament certainly bode well for the upcoming seasons.”

This is the twenty-second consecutive year the team has qualified students for the national meet. The national tournament hosted 23 different speech and debate events with over 3500 competitors. It is the largest academic competition in the world. Numerous generous donations made by individuals and businesses in the Jackson Hole community made the trip possible. The team is very appreciative of this extensive and continuous support.


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