In an online tournament this weekend, The Jackson Hole High School Speech and Debate Team placed fifth in 4A at the State Speech and Debate tournament. The finish comes on the heels of the team’s successful season. Photo: Londe Gagnon

JACKSON, Wyo. — In an online tournament this weekend, the Jackson Hole High School Speech and Debate Team placed fifth in 4A at the State Speech and Debate tournament.

Led by coaches Londe and Peggy Gagnon, Jackson’s state squad included two seniors, four juniors, and seven sophomores. The team joined over 315 other competitors and 33 schools at the three-day meet. The State Meet limits schools to 20 entries and Jackson advanced 42 percent of its entries to culminating rounds on Saturday, compared to an average of 28 percent for most teams.

Seniors and team captains Joshua Hansen and Preston Harmon led the top finishes by earning 2nd place in Public Forum Debate. They argued their way through 9 rounds of debate, examining both sides of whether or not the benefits of creating the United States Space Force outweigh the harms. Juniors William Aepli and Lily Briggs teamed up in the event as well, where they reached quarter finals and came away with 7th place overall.

Hansen went on to take 2nd place in 4A in Congressional Debate, Aepli followed closely behind. Aepli actually initially tied with Hansen but due to a tiebreaker, Aepli was awarded 3rd in the event. Briggs placed 6th in the event where Jackson has shown great strength throughout the season.

Sophomore Sophie Lamb came away with 2nd place in 4A in Lincoln Douglas Debate. Lamb made it through 7 rounds of debate, exploring both sides of whether or not the United States ought to guarantee universal child care.

Sophomores Julieta Anaya and Blanca Sartillo Mejia found success in Duo Interpretation. They placed 7th in the event with their rendition of “Everyone’s Gonna Die” by Clyde Hendrickson, a funny and poignant tale about two patients in a mental hospital.

Junior Sarah Schweitzer found success in Extemporaneous Speaking where she reached the semi finals and placed 10th overall. The event shows off a student’s ability to perform under pressure as they are assigned a current event topic and then must create a seven minute speech with only thirty minutes of preparation.

At the tournament, Hansen was named a 2021 Wyoming High School Forensics Association Ambassador. WHSFA Ambassadors  demonstrate excellence in their competitive accomplishments, their team leadership, and their larger commitment to building a meaningful Speech and Debate community.  The Forensics Ambassador award is a great honor and was only awarded to six students in the state. Hansen was chosen by the association for his commitment, integrity and kindness demonstrated throughout competition. Additionally, with the points he earned at the State tournament, Hansen ranked number two on the National Speech and Debate Association’s ranking of students in the entire nation.

Also, during the State tournament Coach Londe Gagnon was named 4A Coach of the Season. This is the fourth time Coach Gagnon has earned this title but this year held special significance as the challenges a virtual season presented. One coach stated in their nomination for Gagnon, “When it became clear that our only safe option was to move forward with an entirely virtual season, Londe selflessly threw herself into the process of saving the season. She hosted endless Zoom meetings, tabbed seemingly endless tournaments, and supported several of us heavily through the process of organizing our own tournaments. Our kids may or may not recognize the simple fact that without Londe they would likely not have had the season they did, or maybe none at all in Wyoming. She was absolutely crucial to keeping speech and debate alive this year.”

The team competes at the Wind River District tournament this coming week. This is the final tournament for the Wyoming season as competitors attempt to qualify for the prestigious National Speech and Debate Association tournament to be held this June.

Buckrail @ Caroline

Caroline Chapman is a Community News Reporter. She enjoys reading non-fiction, skiing, hiking, and playing piano in her downtime. Her favorite aspect about living in Jackson is the genuine admiration that Wyomingites share for the land and the life that it sustains.