Hundreds debate at Central High

MICHAEL ZEHNER, a member of the Moffat County High School speech and debate team, warms up Friday at Central High School’s Warrior Invitational Speech Tournament in Grand Junction. About 300 students are participating.

Nearly 300 high school students from around the region are squaring off in everything from humor to heady political debates this weekend at Central High School for the largest speech and debate competition on the Western Slope.

The Warrior Invitational attracted 198 debaters and 100 speech givers from high schools in Green River Wyo., Aspen, Durango and “just about every place in between,” said Central speech coach and event organizer, Anthony Bichler.

About 100 judges, ranging from parents and former speech team members to actual municipal court judges, began judging the contest Friday night and will continue all day today.

“These judges will make about 1,000 decisions this weekend,” Bichler said. “If you want to boil it down, it’s about style and substance.”

At least the judges are compensated with food for their time.

But, Bichler said, each of the speech and debate categories — poetry, drama, humor, duo
interpretation, national extemporary, foreign extemporary, Lincoln/Douglas, cross-examination and public forum — is a “different beast,” he said.

Judges may be looking for more style than substance in the debates that competitors have less time to prepare for, he said.

Ryan Neece and Derrick Ferguson debated Jessica Lyon and Jennifer Jenkins in public forum, taking the affirmative side of the argument that alternative fuel cars should be mandated by 2040.

The teams would have had a month to prepare for the debate, Bichler said, whereas debaters in a category such as the Lincoln/Douglas debate would have had longer to prepare for their speech topic.

In the end, the judge thought Neece and Ferguson presented stronger evidence, but both teams graciously thanked each other and the judge at the end of the debate.

An event such as the Warrior Invitational takes at least a month to plan, said Bichler, who will not have much time to relax this weekend.

“You’re just organizing so many elements,” Bichler said. “We use almost every corner of the school.”

That can present some problems, apparently. A debater from Green River went missing before his debate, forcing him to forfeit the match.

His mother would have to wait to find him before she could “get to the bottom of it,” she said.


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