The Green Canyon Speech and Debate team, comprised mostly of Sophomores, has won the school’s first-ever state championship in any event. Governed by the Utah High School Activities Association, the 4A State Speech and Debate championship was held at Ben Lomond High School earlier this month. Not only did Green Canyon win the state championship, they also won what is referred to as the Triple Crown.
“It’s like this mythical, Sasquatch riding a unicorn thing,” jokes Green Canyon Speech and Debate Coach Gordon Peer. “It’s a real rare thing.”
The team won the Region 12 title on February 23rd, followed by winning the Utah Wasatch Divisional title the following week at Syracuse High School (competing against one third of the state in different classifications), and then won the 4A state championship on March 9th at Ben Lomond High School.
“No team in this part of the state or anything in the last seven years,” Peer exclaims, “has won the Triple Crown: a region, district and state championship.”
Not only did the team, as a whole, win the Triple Crown, but a Green Canyon student achieved the same accomplishment on her own.
“Kjerity Hodgson did an amazing fete herself. She had her own personal Triple Crown where she won region, district and state. She’s state champion in Foreign Current Events. She is one of our five seniors.”
Megan Benson, also a senior, won the state championship in Oratory. She also won the region championship in that same event.
Naomi Craner and Kayson Argyle (a pair of novices as Coach Peer describes them) got to the final round in Policy Debate and finished 2nd at State.
Colin Wiedeman took 2nd in National Current Events. Emi Borecki took 3rd place in Oratory and Bethani Gunther took 3rd in Foreign Current Events.
And the team won all these accolades despite significant personal challenges through the year, Peer says, including the tragic death of a member of the team, loss of loved ones, unfortunate medical diagnoses to some of the coaches, and the loss of leadership after graduation.
“This year, seeing that they went through all of that, was hard for me as a coach,” says Peer. “Our theme was ‘Break the Record’, let’s get past what we couldn’t do last year. To see them do that was great. But I know they never would have gotten to that point of winning the state championship if they hadn’t gone through all they did this year, which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
“But I can see that their maturation happened because of what they went through. The resiliency of these primarily-sophomore kids has definitely given me perspective that they went through so much and it helped them in the heat of competition to be resilient.”
The team participated in 10 regular season tournaments that began in mid-October and spanned through mid-March. Based on the team’s performance in those tournaments, they then qualified for Region. Green Canyon won the Region 12 title for the second time in a row by getting past Speech and Debate team powerhouse Logan High, a team that won the state championship last year and always has a very strong team.
Speech and Debate competitions often see teams that specialize in one area over another. Some schools focus their strength on the Debate competitions (which often yields the most state championships), but other schools have been heavy on their emphasis on the Speech events (which is more rare, but has worked in the past to win a state championship). Peer says Green Canyon chose to be well rounded this year and it paid off.
“The question that hasn’t been answered in the last 30 years of UHSAA debate is, ‘Can a family win a championship?’ Which comes down to: can a team focused on students, student-centered first, helping them become leaders, become mature, helping them grow, and then secondarily focus on their event, whatever they specialize in?
“We probably had, compared from last year to this year, more students in new events than any other team in state. The kids were flexible, adaptable and I think it’s because of that we were able to answer that question ‘yeah, a family can win a championship.’ It’s hard because you’re not specialists in one event, but you’re flexible to see what the needs are at the time.”
Peer says the school recently held an assembly for the students and celebrated the team victory. It will be the first banner hanging in the rafters at Green Canyon for a state championship.
“That was just really special,” Peer says. “It wasn’t token; you didn’t see kids clapping half-heartedly. They actually cared about the kids.
“Our athletic directors and administration have been so great. We were the only school to have an administrator come down for state of the whole 26 schools. That just shows their commitment.”
Based on their individual scores and performances at the district championship, nine Green Canyon students qualified for nationals and 25 qualified as alternates. Green Canyon will have the largest contingent of any Utah school heading to nationals if all the students are able to attend. Nationals will be during the third week of June in Dallas, Texas.
“The degree of strength they look at from 1A to 6A…we are the top ranked team in the state of Utah by number of tournaments attended and where they did well. We are the only one from Utah be nationally ranked in the top 100. That was a really cool fete for the students to get.”
AUDIO: Full interview with Green Canyon Speech and Debate Coach Gordon Peer