Columbia Falls, Glacier Win Speech and Debate Titles

By Beacon Staff

Columbia Falls High School coasted to its seventh straight Class A speech and debate state championship, while Glacier High School successfully defended its Class AA title, though the road to victory was a little rockier for the Wolfpack.

Going into the final afternoon of the Class AA speech and debate tournament over the weekend, the Glacier squad had seen its total number of competitors drop from 40 to 15. Meanwhile, state favorite Bozeman still had 36.

“We told the kids we’re still breathing – barely breathing,” Glacier head coach Greg Adkins said. “It was a real gut check time for us. Everyone was feeling a little deflated.”

But those remaining 15 kids put together the most unlikely tournament run Adkins has seen in his nearly 20 years as a speech and debate coach. Aided by a string of personal bests, the diminished crew clipped Bozeman for first place and claimed the school’s second consecutive Class AA state title.

“It was crazy,” Adkins said. “It’s the most dramatic comeback I’ve ever seen at the state tournament. Nothing went according to plan.”

Glacier finished with 145 points, while Bozeman had 126 and Flathead came in third with 115.5. Rounding out the top five were Missoula Sentinel with 99.5 and Billings Skyview with 41.

The Wolfpack finished first in four different categories, including Louise Wingqvist in expository speaking and Tanner Maroney in serious interpretation. Brittnie Dull and Keckeley Habel claimed the top spot in duo interpretation and Ashton Drake and Levi Proctor placed first in policy debate.

Flathead had two individual champions: Jeremy Zugg in legislative debate and Elena Musz in impromptu.

Bozeman had been undefeated on the season entering the state tournament, held in Helena on Jan. 27-28. But two weeks earlier, Adkins said Glacier competed well against Bozeman and his kids “were pretty excited going into state,” knowing they had a chance to win.

Further boosting Glacier’s confidence was an impressive record-setting victory at a tournament at Gonzaga University earlier in the year when the Wolfpack defeated 32 other schools from 11 states.

“That’s when we realized we were an elite team,” Adkins said.

Glacier finished seventh at the Class AA meet in its first year as a program, then third and second before breaking through with a title last year and repeating this season. Adkins feels confident about next year’s squad as well.

“Winning breeds winning,” he said. “It just kind of becomes an expectation.”

Columbia Falls continued its run of dominance at the Class A speech and debate level, winning its seventh straight title. At the state meet in Polson on Jan. 27-28, the Wildcats finished with 140 points, outdistancing second-place Billings Central with 90. Stevensville finished third with 72 points, Belgrade was fourth with 68 and Polson was fifth with 65.

The Wildcats relied on a strong overall team effort, with two individual state champions and a lineup of top-five finishers. Blake Ladenburg placed first in memorized public address and Mason Gedlaman won humor oral interpretation.

Head coach Tara Norick credited both the efforts of her kids and assistant coaches in leading Columbia Falls to another championship. The assistant coaches are Kim Gange and Leslie DiMaio. Norick also noted that this year’s team was very young, with more than half the squad freshmen and sophomores – a good sign for a team trying to extend its state title streak next season.