"OK, class, ready for a story?"
Ariella Kuchler stood hunchbacked at the front of the classroom, peering over her imaginary reading glasses at an imaginary group of students. Her open hands representing the open pages of the fairy tale "Rumplestiltskin," Kuchler licked her fingers and turned a nonexistent page.
For the next seven minutes, Kuchler, a student at Montrose High School, acted out a comical version of the famous fairytale, using a variety of voices and body movements to distinguish among multiple characters.
Her act was one of hundreds of student performances that took place Saturday at Steamboat Springs High School during the 25th annual Steamboat Springs Invitational speech and debate tournament. More than 100 students from eight high schools, including Steamboat Springs, Moffat County and Hayden, competed in the tournament, which featured 10 events.
The tournament was particularly busy for the Sailors, who, in addition to competing, were responsible for most of the administrative duties associated with the event.
"We expect a lot more of our team (for home tournaments)," team co-coach Shauna Lamansky said. "We really empower them to be tournament administrators and take care of all the stuff that needs to be done."
For the 15 members of Steamboat's speech and debate team, Saturday was a tale of two duties. Half of the team competed in morning events and the other half competed in the afternoon. While not competing, team members were responsible for everything from greeting event judges and assigning them to classrooms to scheduling the times, locations and groupings of each event. A group of parent volunteers and teachers also helped to ensure things ran smoothly.
"Working a tournament really gives you an appreciation for other tournaments," Steamboat team member Dana Schlingman said.
Saturday's tournament was the team's lone home event of the season. The Sailors are accustomed to traveling across the state for weekend tournaments, so the opportunity to stay in the Yampa Valley for a tournament was appreciated.
"We all got to sleep at home last night, and we'll be done by 7 p.m. tonight," Shauna Lamansky said.
But until the day was done, the high school's commons area and media center were a flurry of activity. Competitors paced the school's hallways practicing their routines and speeches before flitting off to various classrooms after the schedules for each round were released.
The events included humorous interpretation, original oratory, dramatic interpretation and Lincoln-Douglas debate. In humorous interpretation, Kuchler's event, students perform a comical routine for a judge and their fellow competitors. In original oratory, students recite work they penned. Lincoln-Douglas debate takes place in a one-on-one format in which students argue for a particular side of an issue. The event is modeled after the famed debates between Abraham Lincoln and Sen. Stephen A. Douglas.
Regardless of which event students compete in, competitive public speaking and debating teaches high school students important skills, Steamboat co-coach Marty Lamansky said. Students gain confidence, learn how to articulate their thoughts, learn teamwork, and spend significant time researching topics and analyzing information, he said.
Steamboat senior Patrick Kuczkowski said participating on the speech and debate team has improved his confidence and sparked an interest in international affairs. His best event is foreign extemporaneous speaking.
"I was very introverted," Kuczkowski said about his days before speech and debate. "Now, I have self-confidence, and I can go out and show that to people."
Schlingman, a Christian Heritage School student who competes with the Steamboat team, said she also has gained confidence through public speaking. More important, she said, is that speech and debate has allowed her to be herself and share her thoughts with the world. Schlingman specializes in the original oratory event.
"This gives me a chance to be me," Schlingman said, holding up a typed copy of her original oratory speech. "These are my words."
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