The Havre High School speech and debate team took 24 competitors to Kalispell for one of the largest invitational tournaments of the season this weekend and faced some of the toughest competition Montana can offer. No one from Havre placed at the competition, which gave awards to the top eight competitors in each category.
The Flathead Invitational drew some of the toughest of western Montana's Class A teams, along with a full complement of AA competition, resulting in individual events with up to 70 competitors. At the end of five preliminary rounds, with one drop round, competitors who had averaged higher than second place in every round found themselves shut out of semifinals.
Best finishes by Havre High speech and debate included: Shawn McLain and Gina Williams, who finished two points out of semifinals in extemporaneous speaking and serious oral interpretation; the varsity policy team of Peter Spangelo and Matt Welch, who compiled a 3-2 win-loss record; and newcomer Cherish Fehr, who had a late-round surge and was also near the cut for the top 16 for semifinals.
While a shutout is a humbling experience for the Pony squad, which has savored some earlier successes against western A opponents, the Kalispell experience is a valuable lesson for the individual competitor, said Havre head coach Peggy Fink.
"The students picked up five new views of how they might improve their presentation, just as they have a vacation and extra time to consider polishing, refining or changing those speeches," Fink said.
"There was no room for a stutter or a forgotten line at this meet, and there won't be any forgiveness at divisional or state. This meet was a tough reminder that we are about to compete to qualify for state and that one mistake can cost you the opportunity to qualify for our Class ABC top 32."
The Havre squad will next travel to Conrad for a predominantly Northern Division meet on Jan. 5 and then to Malta on Jan. 19 for the Northern Division Qualifier. The State ABC meet will be hosted again this year by Havre High School on Jan. 25-26.