Central, Palisade state champions in speech, debate

Central High School senior Ryan Larsen can recite nearly every relevant fact on the issue of whether the United States should pressure Israel to pursue a two-state solution with Palestine.

Larsen doesn’t read about international geopolitical issues just for kicks — at least, not usually.

Larsen and his teammate, Central senior Wyatt Hurt, are state champions in the 2017 Colorado Speech and Debate Tournament, along with Palisade High School juniors Ethan Bollinger and Kaleb Hawkins.

Larsen and Hurt won the public forum debate, and Bollinger and Hawkins won the duo interpretation event.

Larsen joined the speech and debate team at Central after taking Anthony Bichler’s forensic class. Bichler has served as the speech and debate coach for 19 years and is stepping down this year.

“I would say I’ve always been good at arguing, but it wasn’t until the medium of debate that I learned to be a good public speaker,” Larsen said.

Palisade High School teacher and speech and debate coach Meaghan McDowell also took a class from Bichler when she was a student at Central.

“I always loved what they did but was never brave enough to do it as a high-schooler,” she said. “There was an opening my second year teaching for speech and debate coach. I had no idea what I was getting into, but it was the best thing I’ve ever done.”

McDowell said she started jumping up and down when she heard that Bollinger and Hawkins were state champions.

“Those two are the most humble, remarkable young men I’ve ever met,” she said. “They don’t expect great things to happen unless they work really, really hard.”

McDowell said she enjoys watching students grow through their participation in speech and debate.

“Winning is great, but what’s better is seeing that they’re becoming better people, becoming more open-minded and creative,” she said. “Speech and debate is a spectator sport, and it is probably one of the best formats and tools in any student’s and adult’s arsenal in creating a world that we all long to be a part of.”


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