This year is lucky number seven for the Thunder Speech, Theatre and Debate Company.
Desert Vista’s speech and debate students won their seventh consecutive 5A state championship this month. That feat included 10 students winning state champion titles as individuals or in pairs in six different events.
Sophomore Joseph Kim brought a special kind of first to this year’s results: he was the first Desert Vista student to ever win a state champion title in impromptu speaking, a category where students have just a couple of minutes to prepare a five-minute speech on a topic they’re given in the competition room. Kim won with a speech on Ceres, the Roman goddess of the harvest, relating her myth to different lessons on reaping what you sow.
Waiting for the awards to be announced was nerve-wracking, Kim said. But as finalists, fifth place and fourth place were announced and Kim’s name had yet to be read, he couldn’t help getting excited.
“Coach tells us not to celebrate too much, but you’re all smiles on the inside,” Kim said.
Senior Megan McHugh, who was a finalist in congressional debate and qualified for the national championships at a previous competition, said this year’s win was satisfying because there were a lot of good teams competing.
“It wasn’t just ours to win. We had to work for it,” McHugh said. “There’s still something we have to prove, and that’s what makes it so awesome.”
McHugh has stuck with speech and debate over the years because she loves the chance to learn about topics in-depth with fellow students, which is something her events require. She equated the team to being like one big family.
“It’s not only the ability to learn with these people. You grow up with them,” she said. “You don’t get that experience anywhere else.”
Kim also compared the team to being like one big family. He hopes the team continues to get support from the community, since he said speech and debate provides an important function.
“We invest the time to create the future’s leaders,” Kim said. “The ones who come out of here are the ones who are in touch with their emotions and can think on their feet, perfect to handle today’s business environment.”
Desert Vista’s coaching staff also received a special recognition this year.
The National Federation of High Schools, which is the Speech and Debate program’s governing body, gave coach Erik Dominguez and his approximately 12-person volunteer coaching team the Outstanding Speech, Debate and Theatre Educator Award. Dominguez was nominated for the award and won for region seven, which covers the western United States.
“It was a little bit overwhelming. Our coaching staff works really, really hard,” Dominguez said. “We see the fruits of our labor through our students, but to be recognized was overwhelming.”
Dominguez and his team aren’t done just yet – 11 students qualified to go to the National Forensic League national championship in Kansas City, Mo. later this year.
Individual state champions included Michael Mazzella for congressional debate; Zaki Aizaz and Michael Witt for public forum debate; Brittany Stanchik and Greg Hietala for public forum debate; Joseph Kim for impromptu speaking; Trevor Kinkade for both humorous interp and prose interpretation; and Holly Nordquist and Dillon Olmanson for duo interpretation.