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State title a ‘Cinderella win’ for Flathead High School speech and debate

by HILARY MATHESON
Daily Inter Lake | January 30, 2024 12:00 AM

The tenacity of this year’s Flathead High School speech and debate team paid off with a state title, beating defending champ Bozeman.

“For this team — who overcame so many obstacles this year — this was truly a Cinderella season,” Flathead head coach Shannon O’Donnell said.  

The champions rallied to the first-place finish with 184.5 points overall. State runner-up, Bozeman, scored 169 points. Glacier High School placed third with 153 points.

Flathead’s last state win was in 2020.

With an unusually high number of first-time competitors, this was seen as a year of rebuilding for Flathead. A state title seemed like a long shot, but the young team was driven.

“... [It] was the result of long hours of dedicated practice and strength of will on the part of our young team and the desire of our departing squad leaders.”

This year’s state team had 15 first-year competitors, a first in O’Donnell’s coaching career, and 17 seniors. She said all 15 earned varsity letters. In a typical season, it’s usually around three. 

What took many veterans out for seven weeks was the high school’s coinciding production of Broadway’s “Frozen,” O’Donnell said. Despite this, the team kept its eyes on the prize.

“They really dug their heels in. They were coming in at 6:30 a.m. to practice before school; coming in during lunches and study hall during the day; staying late at night; practicing over the weekends when we didn’t have tournaments and over the Christmas break,” O’Donnell said.

The last time she recalled this level of effort in a season capped by a state win that seemingly “came out of nowhere,” was in 2015.

“What propelled us to victory was strong finishes from every area of events: short prep, memorized, interp, and debate. You can’t win a state championship without contributions from the full team,” she said.

Leading the Flathead team were event champions Siarah Holden and Tag Schow in Duo Interpretation, Taylor Pooton in Impromptu Speaking, Lindy Porter in Program Oral Interpretation and Brody Turner in Varsity Lincoln-Douglas Debate.

Glacier’s individual champions were Sophia Bourriague in Extemporaneous Speaking, Brenna Ernst in Dramatic Interpretation, Ellie Fiala in Memorized Public Address, Ethan Grant in Original Oratory and Kaylin Stein in Humorous Interpretation.

“It just wasn't our weekend,” said Glacier head coach Greg Adkins. “Some tough breaks on Saturday afternoon, but these results don't diminish this team. This activity teaches grace and humility, and I couldn't be prouder of the Wolfpack. My congratulations to the Flathead team, they had a remarkable weekend.”

O’Donnell and fellow coach Susan Dykhuizen also were nominated by their peers as finalists for the AA Steve Reardon Speech Coach of the Year award. Missoula Hellgate coach Connie Moothart was nominated as well.

Flathead coach Kelli Rosenquist was nominated for the AA Anne Sullivan Debate Coach of the Year. Other nominated coaches include Bozeman’s Adam Thane, Gallatin’s Shelby Jackson and Billings West’s Stephen Macartney.

Coach of the year winners will be announced at the Montana Forensic Educators Association and Montana High School Associations Coaches Conference on March 8.

Following are local individual results. Students placing first through fourth receive All-State honors.


Varsity Policy Debate


4. Owen Carpenter and Josh Lee, Glacier

6. Isaac Sandler and Vincent Lam, Flathead


Varsity Lincoln-Douglas Debate


1. Brody Turner, Flathead


Public Forum Debate


3. Jack Blodgett and Brett Pesola, Flathead

7. Raelynn Wehr and Abigail Calvert, Flathead


Legislative Debate


2. Kaylee Hampton, Flathead

8. B. Poitra, Flathead


Impromptu Speaking


1. Taylor Pooton, Flathead

2. Rachel Ottman, Flathead

6. Blake Lindemann, Glacier

7. Brenna Ernst, Glacier


Extemporaneous Speaking


1. Sophia Bourriage, Glacier

2. Jake Milone, Flathead

7. Taylor Pooton, Flathead

8. Rachel Ottman, Flathead


Program Oral Interpretation


1. Lindy Porter, Flathead

4. Anya Rountree, Glacier

5. Bronson Willcut, Flathead

7. Ada Milner, Flathead

8. Cielo Sallee, Glacier


Duo Interpretation


1. Siarah Holden and Tag Schow, Flathead

2. Collin Olson and Adina Lockwood, Flathead

3. Alden Lamson and Quindy Gronley, Glacier

6. Kelsea Bemis and Claire Ennis, Glacier

7. Ben Moore and Ryan Kitzmiller, Flathead


Humorous Interpretation


1. Kaylin Stein, Glacier

2. Ada Milner, Flathead

4. Adina Lockwood, Flathead

5. Meyer Fauth, Glacier

6. Daniel Cole, Glacier

7. Siarah Holden, Flathead

8. Collin Olson, Flathead


Dramatic Interpretation


1. Brenna Ernst, Glacier

2. Noel Cantrell, Glacier

3. Gabrielle Cantrell-Musson, Glacier

8. Jax Stebbins-Han, Flathead


Original Oratory


1. Ethan Grant, Glacier

4. Quindy Gronley, Glacier

5. Claire Timm, Flathead

6. Hailey Hendrickson, Flathead

7. Layna Astley, Flathead


Informative Speaking


2. Meyer Fauth, Glacier

3. Hailey Hendrickson, Flathead

5. Annabeth O'Shea, Glacier

6. Alden Lamson, Glacier

7. Lucy Downey, Flathead

8. Isabelle McKoy, Glacier


Memorized Public Address


1. Ellie Fiala, Glacier

2. Gabrielle Cantrell-Musson, Glacier

3. Claire Timm, Flathead

4. Jacob Braach, Flathead

5. Hadley Dennison, Flathead

6. Ethan Grant, Glacier


Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

    Flathead High School team members show excitement as state results are announced Jan. 27 at Missoula.(Courtesy photo)
 
 
    Teammates Tag Schow, Rachel Ottman and Brody Turner collect the state trophy for Flathead High School at the tournament held Jan. 26 and 27 in Missoula. (Courtesy photo)
 
 


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