Sherri Anderson’s reflection following the Festival Speech and Debate State competition this past weekend was a testament to the progress her Gunnison High School (GHS) team has made in relatively short order.
“Four years ago, very hesitantly, I wrote the words, ‘I’ll do it,’ and hit send,” Anderson indicated. “I really didn’t have any idea what any of this was all about, and frankly, thought the whole thing was a little weird.”
Taking over the team four years ago with a small group of six, Anderson knew that it would be some time before the GHS Speech and Debate team would reach major milestones. However, one such milestone was reached this past weekend.
“The kids stuck with me and together we laughed a lot, cried some, listened, ate a lot of Wendy’s and kind of figured it out,” Anderson stated.
Twenty schools were in attendance for the state competition, with more than 175 kids competing in 12 events. GHS took to the field with 24 eager students, ready to spill their words — some finishing a season, and others ending their high school career with the team. Ultimately, 20 GHS students would place among the state’s best.
The students’ energy was high. They competed in two rounds Friday, but Saturday was the day in which everyone was thrilled to see what would happen. As finalists for various events were slowly posted, GHS students were filled with joy as they saw fellow classmates and friends from other teams make it to the top six.
It was not until later that afternoon that the results would be announced. Students filed into the auditorium at Heritage High School, where they would all sing and dance with one another as they waited for head coaches to make their way in. Once they did, the students’ hearts skipped beats, as they waited to hear the results.
“You may see a pattern here today,” head coaches would say as finalists were announced.
With laughter in each breath, an echo of, “Gunnison,” filled the room. With students cheering for their school, GHS dominated the stage. However, it was not until the announcement of Creative Storytelling finalists that GHS began to hit cloud nine.
With second place announced, and one GHS student left on stage while the local team chanted, it was announced: “Your 2018 Creative Storytelling state champion, from Gunnison, Jordan Preston.”
This was the first state championship the team had brought home since 2002, but it would not stop there. Poetry Interpretation was the last event to be announced — an event for which the GHS team is known. With all four poets from Gunnison making it to the stage, the question was not, “How did we do?” but, “Who will be state champion?” Anticipation grew, and when one student was left, GHS went wild. “Your 2018 Poetry Interpretation state champion, from Gunnison, Eli Emmitt!”
In addition to multiple other awards received by GHS students, all of the Octa finalists in One-on-One Value Debate were Gunnison kids. They included Alex Hays, Mason Houston, Karavela Zeiter and Joslyn Hays. Even the announcer couldn't help but laugh.
In the end, GHS brought back a bus brimming with full hearts, many tears, various awards and two state champions.
“This weekend my heart just about exploded for them,” Anderson stated.
With one more big event — National Qualifiers — coming the team’s way, Anderson is excited to see where the squad will finish up now that state has come and gone.
“They’ve done so well, and I am so proud of each and every single one of them,” Anderson said. “Who knows what the future will hold, but I’m sure whatever it is, it will be good.”