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The joy of speech

Mar 20, 2013 - By Steven R. Peck

Riverton High School's top talkers excelled in their version of March Madness

Here's a shout-out (particularly relevant in this case) to the smart kids who comprise the Riverton High School speech and debate team. They are fresh from their own brand of March Madness, and they represented their school and their community with poise and excellence.

In the unusual dual postseason in which they compete, the RHS speakers accomplished a couple of milestones. First, they won the National Forensic League District championship as a team March 7-9, vanquishing perennial sweepstakes champion Green River.

Second, six Wolverine talkers will be representing Wyoming at the NFL nationals this summer in Alabama. That's the most ever for RHS.

Then, last weekend at the Wyoming High School Activities Association state speech meet, which is the other culminating event for the season, Riverton won a couple of state championships and dotted the finals in a half dozen events.

We enjoy drawing positive attention to many student activities in addition to sports, from music to FFA, Future Business Leaders, History Day, the state culinary contest, the auto mechanics competition, and numerous others, and we have great admiration and respect for them all. The speech team is different from many of these in that it competes in a long season consisting of 15-20 tournaments, rather than preparing all year for a single state festival or convention. The speakers are more like the swimmers or the track team, traveling the state weekend after weekend from November to March, fielding a lineup covering many different events, and always having to face the best each week.

There's never a "gimme," no more or less automatic victory against a winless team. There are no breathers. That kid from Rock Springs who beat you last week, and whom you beat the week before? He'll be waiting for you again next week.

National Forensic League is the largest academic competition in the United States, and the students who participate in it always rank among the brightest and highest-achieving kids in school. Academic scholars and social scientists have long known the benefits of forensic participation and competition, and they have data to back them up. Competitive speaking teaches preparation, discipline, research skills, writing skills, critical and theoretical thinking, strategic and tactical planning, staying calm under pressure, and the basic life skill of being able to stand in front of a group of people and speak with confidence.

Check out the lists of the highest grade-point averages, best test scores, college board entrance exams and top college admissions, and you'll see heavy representation by speech and debate students in all categories. Taking part in this activity is a tremendous investment in the future of our kids, our community and our nation.

Plus, it's incredibly fun.

We'll have the names and faces of these champs in the paper very soon. Please take note when you see them.

Under nationally recognized coach Annette Thornton, Riverton High School has Wyoming's oldest NFL chapter, and it is one of the very best. The heading at the top of this page says "Opinion," but the preceding statement about the RHS speech team is more than that. It is a fact, and an impressive one.

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