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Class A Speech and Debate: Whitefish wins state title, ending C-Falls dynasty

by HILARY MATHESON
Daily Inter Lake | February 1, 2021 11:05 AM

Whitefish High School Speech and Debate captured the Class A state title over a three-day tournament, ending Columbia Falls High School’s championship dynasty.

It was another close tournament, with 33 points separating first and second place. Whitefish amassed 200 overall points for the win. Columbia Falls racked up 167 points, taking second place at the virtual tournament held last Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Laurel finished third, with 112 points.

“I could not have been more proud of the balanced effort we produced across the three days of competition,” Whitefish Head Coach Sara Mueller said. “With every entry scoring points throughout the weekend, we were able to hold our own and keep ourselves in contention during the first two days, to give ourselves the chance we needed in the final rounds. Every state tournament comes down to mental toughness and bouncing back as there are just too many rounds for perfection, and this one seemed like an extreme example.The support this team gave to each other, even through personal disappointments, was inspiring.”

Cementing the team’s win was Abigail Bowden, who was the individual state champion in Extemporaneous Speaking and Impromptu Speaking. Paetra Cooke was the state champion in Memorized Public Address.

Mueller also gave a nod to Columbia Falls’ history of 15 consecutive state titles.

“I am so proud of my fellow coaching staffs at Columbia Falls, who we will always acknowledge as the powerhouse they’ve built, and other schools around the state who’ve made this season happen for the competitors in the most challenging of circumstances,” Mueller said, referring to the postponed season and virtual tournament format due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This was also a transitional season for the Columbia Falls team. Columbia Falls Head Coach Blake Ladenburg replaced Tara Norick, who retired after leading the team to 10 consecutive state titles as head coach.

Ladenburg said although the team had been preparing for the inevitable moment the dynasty would end, it was still difficult.

“This entire season was so close, and coming into this tournament we knew it could go any direction,” Ladenburg said, noting that Whitefish had “an amazing tournament from start to finish.

“It is hard to compete against such a strong performance across the board,” Ladenburg said. “Whitefish has been such a strong competitive force since I have been back coaching for three years. We push each other to be better, and it’s been an honor to compete on their level with them this year.”

Despite losing the state title, the Columbia Falls team had a lot to be proud of, Ladenburg said, with three individual state champions in two events — Griffin Conger in Dramatic Interpretation and Tre Finley and Emma Stephens in Policy Debate.

“I could not be more proud of my students. They each persevered through an altered and difficult season, and their resiliency was something to behold. I give them a huge amount of credit for showing up week after week and giving it their all,” Ladenburg said.

Following are individual results.

Memorized Public Address

  1. Paetra Cooke, Whitefish
  2. Lucy Schindler, Whitefish
  3. Julia Sowerwine, Columbia Falls
  4. Taylor Stephens, Columbia Falls

Informative Speaking

  1. Taylor Stephens, Columbia Falls
  2. Adrienne Healy, Whitefish
  3. Aiden Judge, Columbia Falls

Original Oratory

  1. Griffin Conger, Columbia Falls
  2. Paetra Cooke, Whitefish
  3. Julia Sowerwine, Columbia Falls

Impromptu Speaking

  1. Abigail Bowden, Whitefish
  2. Chloe Coberley, Columbia Falls
  3. Paige Moriarty, Columbia Falls
  4. Adrienne Healy, Whitefish

Extemporaneous Speaking

  1. Abigail Bowden, Whitefish
  2. Grayson Butler, Whitefish
  3. Aiden Judge, Columbia Falls

Dramatic Interpretation

  1. Griffin Conger, Columbia Falls
  2. Lucy Schindler, Whitefish
  3. Chloe Coberley, Columbia Falls
  4. Gabby Pickert, Whitefish

Humorous Interpretation

  1. Ruby Davis, Columbia Falls
  2. Zack Tillman, Columbia Falls

Policy Debate

  1. Emma Stephens and Tre Finley, Columbia Falls
  2. Danika Tintzman and Ali Hirsch, Whitefish
  3. Gavin Carmichael and Liam Lynch, Whitefish
  4. Bethany Barnes and Emma Trieweiler, Whitefish

Public Forum Debate

  1. Callie Johnson and Raphe Salmon, Columbia Falls
  2. Zoe Tremper and Addie Blackaby, Whitefish
  3. Stacia Tremper and Sophie Tabor, Whitefish

Lincoln-Douglas Debate

  1. Eddie Chisholm, Columbia Falls

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 748-4431 or by email at hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.