Wildcats state champs after math error found in speech and debate results

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The Columbia Falls speech and debate team is all smiles after learning it won the state A championship Tuesday. To view a video of the announcement to the team, visit the Hungry Horse News Facebook page. Front row, from left: Emmalee Hellen, Isaac Adams, Ave McDonald, Chloe Coberley; second row, Raphe Salmon, Calie Jo Johnson; third row, Griffin Conger, Emma Stephens, Haileigh Bayee, Paige Moriarty, Maggie McKeon; fourth row, Delaney Conger, Lara Erickson, Anna Pickard, Sam Lovering, Tre’ Finley, Katherine MacPherson, Konnor Heindl; fifth row, Aiden Judge, Ava Foley, Suzanna Rosalez, Shyane Williams, Cassidy Norick, Kelsey Wright, Ian McKenzie.

Editor’s note: Due to an editing error, this story was inadvertently truncated in the last issue. Here it is in its entirety.


Hungry Horse News

Shouts and cheers filled the speech and debate room at Columbia Falls High School Jan. 29 as the team found out it had won its 14th straight state A championship, and 21st overall.

The announcement by Activities Director Troy Bowman came just days after the team was mistakenly awarded the second-place trophy at the state tournament in Belgrade.

Both teams were awarded 187 points at the tournament Saturday, and Whitefish was declared the winner on the second tiebreaker criteria, but the scoring error was discovered Sunday and corrected by Montana High School Association Executive Director Mark Beckman.

The final score: Columbia Falls 192, Whitefish 189.

“It’s just so exciting for the kids to know that their hard work paid off. Whether we won first or second, we put in the same amount of work. So did Whitefish,” Wildcat head coach Tara Norick said. “These kids, from both schools, deserve recognition for the hard work they put in this season. These two teams are just so close, they should both be proud.”

After two days of intense competition, and eight rounds of speaking and debating, the two teams were tied atop the Class A standings with 187 points each. The first tie breaker – number of first-place finishes – was also knotted at one, but Whitefish had four second-place finishes to the Wildcats’ three and the Bulldogs were declared the winners.

But as they say in football, after further review ... a math error was found.

Two errors were found in the sweeps scoring. One error was in Humorous Oral Interpretation. Both Columbia Falls and Whitefish should have been awarded 2 more points. Columbia Falls should have been awarded 7 points instead of 5 and Whitefish awarded 20 instead of 18. The second scoring error was in Dramatic Oral Interpretation. Columbia Falls should have been awarded 5 points instead of 2 points. Whitefish was correctly awarded 21 points.

That put Columbia Falls over the top and state champs.

“I was so proud of how we handled ourselves when we thought we came in second,” Norick said. “We gave it our all and did everything we could. If that was a tie and a second-place finish, we were content with that. Finding out that we actually won is amazing.”

For the Wildcat competitors, any trophy would have been a symbol of another year of hard work and dedication.

“We put so much work into this - hours and hours of work. Everyone was happy with second. Finding out that we won first feels about the same, but it is nice to get that recognition,” policy debater Shyane Williams said. “People don’t realize how much work we put into this and the feeling you get from having done well is better than any trophy they could give us.”

“This is extremely shocking,” senior public forum debater Cassidy Norick said. “I thought we had done really well and I was proud of second place, but to hear that we actually won after all of our hard work really brought it all together. I am beyond joyful.”

Columbia Falls dominated the debate side of the ledger, with first and second place finishes in both policy team debate and in public forum team debate. Whitefish topped the boards in memorized public address and informative speaking, and logged 14 competitors in the top eight among the seven speech events.

The team of Ian McKenzie and Maggie McKeon won the policy debate event for the Wildcats while Cassidy Norick and Kelsey Wright earned the top spot in public forum debate. Other top-three finishes for the Cats included Williams and Ava Foley’s second in policy debate, Lara Erickson and Laney Conger were second in public forum debate, Emmalee Hellen was second in memorized public address, Paige Moriarty was third in original oratory and Chloe Coberley was third in Lincoln-Douglas debate.

Speech and Debate State Meet

Individual results:

Policy Debate:

1st Ian McKenzie and Maggie McKeon

2nd Shyane Williams and Ava Foley

7th Calie Jo Johnson and Tre Finley

Public Forum Debate:

1st Cassidy Norick and Kelsey Wright

2nd Lara Erickson and Laney Conger

Lincoln-Douglas Debate:

3rd Chloe Coberley

Memorized Public Address:

2nd Emmalee Hellen

7th Suzanna Rosalez


6th Sam Lovering

8th Paige Moriarity

Humorous Interpretation:

6th Isaac Adams

Dramatic Interpretation:

6th Emmalee Hellen

Original Oratory:

3rd Paige Moriarty

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