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The LaRue County High School Speech and Debate Team spent the past weekend in Danville at the last in-state tournament of the season. Thirteen students competed in speech and debate events attempting to earn spots on the Kentucky entry to the National Forensic League National Championships to be held in Dallas this June. Kentucky sends the best two students in each event to the National Tournament and LCHS managed to snag five of the total 22 speech and debate entries going to the tournament.
Ian Mather and Timmy Gibson took the top spots in Dramatic Interp with Mather earning first and Gibson taking second. Angelia Whitlock and Jeshua Logsdon also took the top spot in Duo Interp, while Chelsea Blair and James Reding both took second in their respective events Congress (Senate division) and Oratory. Mather was also named the Kentucky Student of the Year and will go on to represent Kentucky in the contest to be National Student of the Year.
Mather received this award based chiefly on his work with the little league speech program in LaRue County.
This program, which started last year, has been a huge success, and according to speech coach, Katy Cecil, "Ian was pivotal in the inception and implementation of this program.”
“He is such an incredible leader and will make an excellent representative for speech competition and education in the state and the nation."
The team has already qualified 10 entries to the NCFL National Tournament to be held in Washington, DC, but this is a different National Championship tournament.
“LCHS belongs to two competitive speech leagues, one of them is the Catholic Forensic League and the other is the National Forensic League,” said Cecil. “They both offer national level competitions that are highly regarded and respected venues for post season competition. Many colleges and universities recognize both leagues as being prestigious organizations and often offer scholarships based on student performance at them."
This is the first time in several years that LCHS has had students qualify to the tournament. Mather has been third place in Dramatic the past two years in a row.
The problem the team faces now is that the Board of Education was not quite prepared for the level of success the team has achieved this year.
"The Board is so supportive of us,” said Cecil. “I cannot tell you how proud Mr. Sanders is of how well these kids are doing and they have given us as much money as they can possibly squeeze out of the budget. None of us expected the kind of growth we have experienced this year and since the team has nearly tripled we have spent much more money this year giving all of the students opportunities instead of just the ones who are winning all the time. My own budget has taken quite a hit as well."
Cecil said she is committed to giving every child who is interested in speech the opportunity to compete, but it has left the speech team with a huge shortfall at the end of the season.
"Trips to national tournaments cost a lot of money, because we have to stay in hotels, drive the school vans and pay entry fees," said Cecil. "We find ourselves in need of about $6,500 here at the end of the year."
Several of the students who have qualified for NFL and CFL have also been invited to attend the National Tournament of Champions this year as well. Students earn bids to this tournament based on their winning records at tournaments throughout the regular season. Cecil has had five students invited to the tournament this year.
Last year, only Mather was invited and he won the Poetry Championship. This year, Mather, Gibson, Blair, Logsdon and Whitlock have all been invited to attend.
"This is another reason why we are in need of money and we are hoping that the businesses and citizens in LaRue County will step up to help us. The board of education has agreed to cover half of the costs of the three national tournaments but we still need to raise around $6,500." said Cecil. "Anyone who would like to donate can contact me at the high school or send a check to LCHS in care of the LCHS Speech Team."
This last tournament of the season marks the close to the winningest year in LCHS Speech history. Mather has taken two major national titles; Gibson, Logsdon, Whitlock and Mather have been in the finals of every tournament they have attended all year and each of them has won at least one state championship in the different leagues in which they compete.
"They have had a phenomenal season and I hope they can end their year with the trips to nationals they have earned through their hard work and dedication," said Cecil.