Bulldog speech and debate second at state after scoring error

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The Whitefish Speech and Debate team was named state champions after their performance in the Class A State Tournament in Belgrade over the weekend. (Photo courtesy Sara Mueller)

The Whitefish speech and debate team’s first-place finish at state announced over the weekend was amended Tuesday to second place due to a scoring error.

On Saturday Whitefish was named Class A champions in Belgrade after two tiebreakers, seemingly upending Columbia Falls as 13-season consecutive champions.

With both teams sitting at 187 sweepstakes points at the end of the competition, the first tiebreaker looked at the number of individual champions on each team. Both had two, so the second tiebreaker came down to the number of runner-up finishers.

Whitefish had four to the Wildcats’ three, giving them the title.

However, the following morning a possible error in sweepstakes scoring was brought to the attention of Scott Wilson, Assistant Director of the Montana High School Association, according to a prepared release.

A second look found two errors that put Columbia Falls at 192 points to Whitefish’s 189.

According to the MHSA, two errors were found — both Columbia Falls and Whitefish should have been awarded two more points in humorous oral interpretation, and Columbia Falls should have received three more points in dramatic oral interpretation.

Mark Beckman, Executive Director of MHSA, said the MHSA Forensics handbook does not address clerical errors for sweepstakes scoring, leaving the decision up to him. Beckman decided to award Columbia Falls first place and Whitefish second based on the errors.

While the change is disappointing, the team still put on a strong performance in Belgrade.

Whitefish’s Bethany Barnes took first in informative speaking and Grace Benkelman took first in memorized public address.

The Bulldogs’ runner-up finishers were Aidan Reid in original oratory, Abigail Bowden in extemporaneous, Danika Tintzman in humorous interpretation and Naya Brigette in dramatic interpretation.

Head coach Sara Mueller said state was a combination of individual talents and the team coming together at the right time.

“When the season started, we were a little disjointed, active in a lot of different events — we just didn’t have the connection we necessarily had in the past,” she said. “I thought this was a team with a lot of individual standouts who would do very well, but I think at some point I didn’t think we’d be able to put together the team necessary to make a run for state until the last few weeks, when I really saw the gaps close and I just saw the power of everyone competing together.”

The team will lose six seniors — Lilly Butts, Mary Hooks, Regan Tintzman, Naya Brigette, Abby Lowry and Ivan Cline — but return the majority of this year’s team come next season.

Mueller said she’s hoping this year’s success continues down the road.

“We have a young group as a whole, we’re only losing six seniors. We’re sad to see them go, but as a whole we’re a team that skews a little bit young. People are going to want to be part of a team that can win a championship so I think our recruiting is in a good place.”

Mueller said she’s thankful to live in an area with such a strong speech and debate scene.

“It’s obvious that there’s a lot of strength in speech and debate in this valley, and it’s really awesome to be a part of an area that supports speech and debate like this,” she said.

Individual results:

Policy: 3. Dani Mayeaux and Aidan McMahan, 4. Abby Lowry and Ivan Cline

Lincoln Douglas debate: 4. Lilly Butts

Informative: 1. Bethany Barnes, 3. Elizabeth Campbell, 6. Regan Tintzman

Memorized public address: 1. Grace Benkelman, 8. Maile Vine

Original oratory: 2. Aidan Reid, 4. Libby Goldhirsch

Extemporaneous: 2. Abigail Bowden, 8. Bethany Barnes

Impromptu: 7. Regan Tintzman

Humorous interpretation: 2.Danika Tintzman, 5. Logan Mercer

Dramatic interpretation: 2. Naya Brigette, 4. Lucy Schindler

Sweepstakes 1. Columbia Falls. 2. Whitefish, 3. Laurel

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