Mar 7, 2012 - StaffAs they head into this weekend's national qualifying tournament, members of the Riverton High School speech and debate team are building on one of their most successful seasons in years.
The district tournament, held in Riverton this Thursday through Saturday, March 8-10, is the chance for RHS "speechies," coached by Annette Thornton, to vie for slots at this year's National Forensic League (NFL) national tournament, taking place in Indianapolis in June.
Although only two competitors out of dozens entered will be able to qualify in most events, the team's strong past showings, particularly in interpretation events and student congress, give them hope going into the tournament.
The long high school speech season has two culminating events, staged on consecutive weekends. One is the Wyoming High School Activities Association state tournament which crowns the Wyoming state champion. The other is the NFL district national qualifier, whose champions represent Wyoming at the national tournament. It is this event, the NFL district, that Riverton hosts this year.
Leading the team all season have been juniors Sean Thornton and Jace Flanagan. The dynamic duo shone this year in duet interpretation, an event requiring participants to perform scenes from a book, play or other publication without looking at or touching one another. Thornton and Flanagan's 2011-2012 piece is Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book," made famous to modern audiences by Disney's musical movie version.
Like Disney, the pair has opted for an interpretation featuring both comedy and music, a decision reinforced by repeated regular season wins throughout 2012. Most recently, Thornton and Flanagan took first place at the Worland and Rock Springs invitational tournaments, as well as advancing well into a prestigious tournament at Harvard University in late February at taking third at last weekend's multi-state Cheyenne Invitational tournament.
If Thornton and Flanagan were to snag a slot for Indianapolis this weekend, it wouldn't be their first time traveling to nationals. Last year, the pair qualified with the Jonathan Rand's "How to Succeed in High School Without Really Trying." They also came in second at the 2011 state tournament to now-graduated Green River seniors Will Cronk and Jerry Stott. This year's state tournament will take place March 15-17.
Adding to RHS's strength in duet interp are fellow juniors Dallin Cooper and Jaden Brummond. Like Thornton and Flanagan, Cooper and Brummond had a gainful season last year with their interpretation of "James and the Giant Peach" by Roald Dahl, and also they have found success this year through performance of a Disney musical. Their interpretation of "Mulan" has seen numerous top-six finishes throughout the year, including a sixth-place finish at Worland and a fifth-place finish at lat weekend's Cheyenne tournament. Cooper and Brummond were two slots away from national qualification last year.
Thornton, Flanagan and Brummond also have found success in individual interpretation events, as have other RHS speech competitors. In humorous interpretation, RHS competitors have been among the strongest in the state.
Cooper took second at Worland, first at Rock Springs and first at Cheyenne in the event, while Brummond won in Worland and took fifth at Rock Springs and Cheyenne. Sean Thornton took third at Worland and fourth at Rock Springs, with freshman brother Andrew Thornton taking fourth at Worland and second at Rock Springs.
This will be Andrew Thornton's first district tournament, but he has big shoes to fill. Brother Sean was a national qualifier and state fourth-place finisher in humor last year, and 2011 RHS graduate Mitchell Thornton also claimed fourth in the event at state in 2009.
Brummond also has had success in dramatic interpretation. She took second at both the Worland and Rock Springs tournaments, and, like Sean Thornton and Flanagan, also advanced beyond the qualifying founds at the Harvard tournament in February.
In original oratory, an event that calls on competitors to write and deliver their own persuasive speech, senior Sam Myers and has found success as well. Myers, who speaks on book censorship, took third at Worland, first at Rock Springs and second at Cheyenne. Though he has also had success in poetry interpretation, that event will not be held at the NFL national tournament, meaning that Myers will need to qualify in his main event this weekend if he wants a slot in Indianapolis. Like Andrew Thornton, this weekend will also be Myers's first time competing for a spot at nationals.
Beyond interp events, RHS junior Quentin Lance has led the team in student congress, a large-group debate event in which students write, present and argue legislation in a mock congressional setting. After a close finish in another event at last year's district tournament left him two places away from national tournament contention, Lance emerged as a powerhouse in congress this year. Coming out of several first-place finishes earlier in the season, Lance placed first in the house chamber and third in the senate chamber at Worland, and won the senate chamber in Cheyenne. His legislation deals with the legality of capital punishment.
2012 marks the first time in recent years that RHS has hosted the NFL district tournament. The school played host to the state tournament in 2010.
The tournament is open to the public, with semifinal and final rounds in the interpretation events among the most popular with spectators. Competition also is staged in three other debate events, along with extemporaneous speaking.
jRHS has had at least one national qualifier for five straight seasons.
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