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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Cottonwood High speech team makes points at nationals

Jul 31, 2018 01:55PM ● By Julie Slama

Cottonwood High’s speech team competed at the national competition in Washington, D.C. (Cottonwood High School)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

This fall, Cottonwood High’s speech and debate team can build upon its success from this past season — including the first time in recent history they have sent team members to compete at nationals. 

Twelve members of Cottonwood High’s speech and debate team made their points against hundreds of others who qualified for the Grand National Tournament. Cottonwood students qualified for nationals at the qualifying tournament in mid-March hosted by Juan Diego Catholic High School. 

For some Cottonwood students, competing at the Grand National Tournament, hosted by the National Catholic Forensic League May 26, meant walking through their high school graduation and less than two hours later, flying to Washington, D.C. 

It didn’t seem to deter senior Nour Bilal, who won the first round in original oratory, where students prepare original orations on a topic of their choice for a memorized presentation up to 10 minutes. Her speech was about coming to the U.S. from Syria. 

Junior Mac Gough won the first round in the dramatic performance with a humorous interpretation of “The Book of Mormon Musical.” 

Other Cottonwood students competed in oratorical declamation, oral interpretation of literature-prose and poetry, extemporaneous speaking and student congress. 

“It is so great,” Cottonwood High speech and debate coach Adam Wilkins said. “It’s a fantastic experience for the students to not only compete against the nation’s best, but to tour the nation’s capital and represent their schools and the state. We (were) very stoked to go.” 

The team took in some of the sites around Washington, D.C., on the National Mall, spending time at the Smithsonian as well as several national monuments and memorials. 

Wilkins, who has been the coach for the past five years, said Cottonwood focuses on speech rather than debate topics. 

“As a theater teacher, I can help them with their prepared speeches, so that is where I can best assist them,” he said. “They spend so much time researching, practicing, revising and preparing for competitions. It’s their love and their hard work that has paid off this year.” 

About 20 competitive teammates have presented at 15 tournaments throughout the school year.

“Our goal this past year was to win region. We not only did that, but we did very well at state in addition to taking a large group to nationals,” he said. “This experience allows our kids to listen to students from across the nation. It gives them the chance to have greater exposure and to build their self-confidence.” 

At state, Cottonwood placed in the top 10. This fall, about half of the team will return. 

“It’s a great experience we can build on. We have a great mindset coming off of a winning season,” Wilkins said.