Speech and Debate places four state champs, 3rd overall in state

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – The Jackson Hole High School Speech and Debate Team placed third in 3A this past weekend at the state tournament held in Riverton, Wyoming on March 7-9. Jackson’s state squad included three seniors, three juniors, four sophomores and four freshmen who joined over 400 other competitors and 34 schools at the three-day meet.

The State Meet limits schools to 20 entries and Jackson advanced half of its entries to culminating rounds on Saturday, far in excess of the average of 28%. The Jackson team followed close behind Riverton who finished in 1st and Star Valley who finished in 2nd. Jackson and Worland tied for the 3rd place trophy. The team is coached by Londe and Peggy Gagnon.

JHHS Speech Team placed four individual state champs in 3A. (Courtesy)

Team captain and senior Samantha Smith continued her incredible success in Public Forum Debate, partnering with junior Warren Levy to earn the 3A State Championship. This marks the third year in a row Smith has finished in the top three in the event at the State tournament. The team argued their way through 8 rounds of debate, examining both sides of whether or not the United States should promote the development of market rate housing in urban neighborhoods.

Sophomores Josh Hansen and Preston Harmon teamed up to reach octofinals of the event as well while Junior Darcy Mueller and partner freshman Lily Briggs narrowly missed advancing to culminating rounds with their 3-3 record.

Senior and team captain Leila Sandlin proved triumphant in Program Oral Interpretation where she came home with the title of 3A State Champion. In her program combining drama, poetry and prose, she aims to enlighten the audience to different aspects of what rape culture is, how to recognize a climate that promotes it, and how to begin to change it. She also placed an impressive 2nd in 3A in Poetry Interpretation—the largest event at the tournament with 66 entries. Sophomore Hyla Chatham made it to the semifinals round of the event while senior and team captain, Alisha Vinson reached quarterfinals.

Jackson Speech Team advanced half its entries to culminating rounds on Saturday. (Courtesy)

Levy also performed well in Extemporaneous Speaking, bringing home the 3A State Championship in that event as well. Mueller came home with the 3A 2nd place medal while Harmon placed 3rd.

In Lincoln Douglas Debate, freshman Virginia Girling earned the title of 3A State Champion. She spent the weekend exploring both sides of whether or not the illegal use of drugs ought to be treated as a matter of public health, not of criminal justice.

Girling went on to place 3rd in 3A in Congressional Debate. Freshman William Aepli joined Girling in the final round of the event though he did not make it onto the podium. Hansen barely missed making it to the final round based on a tiebreaker and freshman Anna Revill placed 8th in her preliminary chamber of the event, narrowly missing making the final round as well.

Smith placed 13th in Informative Speaking with her presentation on the media while sophomore River Gayton placed 14th with her presentation on lying. Gayton partnered with sophomore Jacqueline Neishabouri in Duet Interpretation where they missed out on advancing to out rounds by only a few placings.

Coach Peggy Gagnon was nominated for 3A Coach of the Season. She reflected, “To be nominated and considered for Coach of the Season by my peers and colleagues is an incredible honor. I appreciate the entire Wyoming coaching team that dedicate their lives to these amazing students.”

The team will now start preparation for the National Speech and Debate Qualifying District Tournament, which will be held in Rock Springs/Green River this upcoming weekend. The top finishers at this meet will travel to the 2019 National Tournament which will be held in Dallas, Texas this June.

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