Last fall, the Steamboat Springs High School speech and debate team entered its season with a small roster of relatively inexperienced competitors.
Nevertheless, the young team had its share of success, including sending one of its members, Patrick Kuczkowski, to the National Forensic League's national tournament in Salt Lake City.
Recently, team coaches Marty and Shauna Lamansky were notified that their squad was one of two in the state to be named academic team champions, an award given to the team with the highest overall grade-point average.
Hoping to build on last year's successes, the team enters its first competition of the season with its largest roster since 1998.
With 18 members of varying ages and experience levels, Marty Lamansky said this year's team is primed for a strong season, especially given the strong work ethic of its members.
"They're all so enthusiastic," Marty Lamansky said. "We think it's going to be a really good year. We're excited."
"We've got a good cross-section of grade levels and kids who have competed in the past," Shauna Lamansky said. "It's a real positive-energy group. It always jazzes the team up when you have more people."
The team is scheduled to compete in 11 tournaments, not including the state tournament in Denver in March. The first, the Summit Festival Meet at Summit High School in Frisco, is Saturday. The team will be forced to take a small number of its younger members because of ACT testing for juniors and seniors.
The October tournament, unusual for the team, will provide needed meet experience for some competitors.
"We usually don't have a tournament in October, but we decided to start a little earlier this year to help us prepare," Shauna Lamansky said.
Seniors Kuczkowski and Amanda Toy are two of the team's most experienced members and will be key leaders, the coaches said. Other returning members include seniors Stephanie Engle, Dana Schlingman and Kelly Shaw, and juniors Suzie Ford and Lydia Kindred.
New team members or students who are rejoining the team after a season off are freshmen Carolyn Chotvacs, Annie Kuczkowski and Ashley Lopez, sophomores Austin Anderson, Kevyn Morlock, Max Pensack and Laura Stetman, juniors Marty Ludwig, Travis Mouffe and Katelyn Stokes and senior Kayla Murphy.
Mouffe said one of his teachers convinced him to join the team. The junior likes acting, so he plans to compete in interpretation events, which often involve incorporating the voices and personalities of multiple characters.
"It keeps things very interesting," Mouffe said.
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