By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Twenty Havre High School students debated, spoke, extemporized and interpreted their way to runner-up honors in Class A at the state Class ABC Speech, Debate and Drama tournament Friday and Saturday in Corvallis.
Also at the event, Chester High School finished first in the Class C speech competition with 15 points and Blue Sky School took third with seven points. This is the first year Chester has had a speech program in recent years.
The Havre team went into the event undefeated after winning nine tournaments since the season began in October, including the divisional tournament last week in Havre. The team scored 54 points, five points behind Billings Central Catholic High School. Whitefish High School took third with 50 points.
HHS juniors Mike Inabnit and Lucas Hamilton took top honors at the tournament, winning the team debate competition. Sophomores Tristan Welter and Andrew Dusek took third and fifth, respectively, in expository speaking.
The win by Inabnit and Hamilton marks the first time in at least five years that HHS team debaters have won state, said HHS assistant speech and debate coach Kevin Shellenberger.
Inabnit said today he was surprised that he and Hamilton made it that far in the tournament because up to that point they hadn't placed very high in big meets.
"I think me and Lucas both were pushing extra hard on this one," Inabnit said. "I noticed my speaking got a lot better in this meet."
Inabnit said that in quarterfinals, he and Hamilton were pitted against the No. 1-ranked team in the Western Division, a team from Whitefish High School.
"When we saw that, we were kind of intimidated. They had a case we weren't too familiar with, but we managed to find a few holes," he said.
They won the debate by a split vote of 2-1 from the three judges. From there they went on to win the rest of the debates with straight decisions.
Each year team debate has a single topic in the form of a statement. In each debate, the team that supports the statement is the affirmative side, and the negative team attacks the affirmative team's case. A case includes proving that there is a problem, identifying the factors that keep it from being solved, and proposing a solution to overcome those barriers. Over the course of a season, teams have to debate both the affirmative and negative sides, so they go into a debate prepared for both.
This year's topic was that the federal government should establish an ocean policy to protect marine natural resources. That presented a challenge, Inabnit said: getting interested.
"It was kind of hard to get enthused about the topic just because of the subject matter," he said. Two years ago the topic was on weapons of mass destruction, which, Inabnit said, was "a little bit more exciting."
Nine other Havre competitors earned points for their team by making it to the semifinals in speech events or winning competitions in preliminary debate rounds.
They included senior Kelly Lamb in extemporaneous speaking and senior Katie'B Jarvis in humorous oral interpretation of literature.
Team debaters earning points for Havre were freshmen debaters Emily Koffler and Megan Wagner, and sophomores Katon Gerky and Richard Jarvis. In Lincoln-Douglas debate, junior Dean Koffler and seniors Ross Coons and Tyler Dusek scored points, each winning two debates.
HHS does not participate in the drama part of the competition.
"They've worked hard all year and they've done quite well," said Shellenberger. "They haven't lost a meet all year until state, so that's pretty impressive."
Havre students will also compete at the National Forensic League district tournament in Helena on Feb. 6-7.