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Flathead Valley schools prevail in war of words

by Daily Inter Lake
| February 1, 2024 12:00 AM

Be careful who you get into a friendly squabble with in these parts — chances are you’ll find yourself on the losing end of a debate with a state champion.

Last weekend, Flathead High School hoisted the State AA speech and debate title, while Columbia Falls High School notched an undefeated season and a remarkable 24th State A championship overall.

Led by a group of 17 seniors, Flathead’s unexpected win was built upon hours of after-school practice and a shot of brilliance on the biggest stage.

“For this team — who overcame so many obstacles this year — this was truly a Cinderella season,” Flathead head coach Shannon O’Donnell said about the school’s first speech and debate title since 2020.

O’Donnell praised the full-team effort that propelled Flathead to the top, with contributions coming from every event.

Columbia Falls, meanwhile, simply proved to be the cream of the crop once again. The Wildcats won championships in six out of 11 individual events on their way to accumulating a massive 285 sweeps points.

“Every single member of our state team contributed sweeps points by winning a round, breaking semi-finals in speech or quarter finals in debate, along with the points earned by the final placements,” said head coach Dawn Roe, who coached the Wildcats to a State A title last year.

The upstart squad at Whitefish High School also claimed some hardware, earning runner-up status with a noteworthy performance. Head coach Sara Mueller pointed out that every team member contributed to the final point total. 

Glacier High School was in the mix last week, as well, taking third overall in Class AA.

There’s no doubt that the Fathead Valley has emerged as the standard-bearer of speech and debate prowess in Montana.

Congratulations to Flathead and Columbia Falls on their impressive championship seasons. Their commitment to improving each week and maintaining poise under pressure is inspiring and a first-rate representation of the valley’s best.