Twenty-five District 51 students qualify for state speech tournament

Photo by Gretel Daugherty—Central High School has the most qualifiers in the School District 51 group that will compete in the State Speech Tournament on Friday and Saturday. The Central team includes, foreground, Jacquelyn Flowers, left, and Gabrielle McCombs, and, back from left, Rocco Labriola, Selina Najar, Brandon Chin, David Cochran, Laine Driver and Sami Bouchagour. They are shown in the class of their coach, Anthony Bichler.

Central High School Speech and Debate Coach Anthony Bichler wants to return from this Friday and Saturday’s State Speech Tournament with a win.

“This is my 14th year coaching, and we’ve been the runner-up four times,” Bichler said. “I would love to get a state championship.”

Thirteen of Central’s 35 speech and debate team members will aim for that goal this weekend. Central students who qualified to compete at the state championship are: Kylie Banks, Audrey Bird, Sami Bouchagour, Brandon Chin, David Cochran, Laine Driver, Jacquelyn Flowers, Rocco Labriola, Gabrielle McCombs, Selina Najar, Amber Rademacher, Austin Solko and Marissa Untalan.

The team meets once a week and has breakout sessions up to three times a week with people who compete in the same categories, from humor to congressional debate. Flowers and Najar, who compete in the current events-related public-forum category, attended a two-week summer camp last year to improve their debate skills.

“I look forward to good rounds, not necessarily wins,” Najar said.

Grand Junction High School will send six students: Doug Culver, Emma Holt, Gracie Raaum, Justine Roof, Tsinni Russell and Sam Vidlock.

Fruita Monument and Palisade High School qualified three students apiece for the state tournament. Palisade will send Micah Costello, Talitha Costello and Tiana Menon to the tournament, and Fruita Monument will send Sarah Baker, Betsy Connor and Shane Petch.

Palisade junior Micah Costello said he is excited for his first trip to state. Costello said his team is small, with six or seven out of 13 members showing up to practice consistently. Fruita Monument’s team is a little larger at 20 members and growing, according to Connor, a senior and team captain.

“Our goals for this year are to do well at state, and next week is the national qualifier, so our goal is to get as many people as possible to nationals,” Connor said.

Central will host the National Forensics League Qualifying Tournament on March 23–24. Western Slope students who earn first or second place in competitions at the tournament will qualify to participate in the National Forensic League National Speech & Debate Tournament, which takes place June 10–15 in Indianapolis.

Students qualify for nationals at a second tournament instead of qualifying to advance from the state tournament because separate groups sanction the state tournament and the national tournament. The National Forensics League runs the national tournament and the Colorado High School Activities Association runs the state tournament.


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