Nine’s divine. That was the mantra of the Columbia Falls speech and debate team as it brought home an unprecedented ninth-straight state title on Feb. 1.
The Wildcats downed Hamilton 170-127 to take the Class A title in Hamilton. Stevensville was third with 82 points, and Whitefish was sixth with 48.
With the tournament in Hamilton, the team had to rise to the occasion, coach Tara Norick said. The team knew Hamilton had the home advantage, and the Broncs had beaten the Cats once this year and tied them another time.
“It meant we had to be that much better,” she said.
The tournament ran neck-and neck up until the last events. Hamilton had 18 speakers in the semifinals on Friday, and so did Columbia Falls.
“Our depth and balance were the difference,” Norick said. “The reason we won is we’re a team. We’re a family.”
Senior Mason Gedlaman won his fourth individual title, taking first in impromptu speaking. He said competing in speech through high school has made him a better person, and he implored his classmates to get involved.
“It will give you the opportunity to be the best person you can possibly be,” he told the crowd.
Senior Mark Hader also brought home gold for the first time, taking first place in humorous oral interpretation. A nice accomplishment considering he played football through the first four weeks of the speech and debate season. Hader also has acted in every school play through his high school career, and that helped him with his speech skills.
“The judges said I was very theatrical, and that helped with the speeches,” he said.
The policy debate team of juniors Colter Norick and Meredith Stolte also brought home gold.
Columbia Falls will have some rebuilding to do next year as they look for a 10th-straight title. The Cats graduate nine seniors this year. Here’s complete Columbia Falls results:
2. Mark Hader
4. Bailey Duke
1. Mark Hader
3. Lexi Corbett
4. Mason Gedlaman
4. Baylee Brinton
6. Samantha Gilk
3. Alex Damon
7. Bailey Duke
1. Mason Gedlaman
4. Casey Shea
6. Henry Chisholm
5. Cody Phillips
1. Meredith Stolte and Colter Norick
4. Monique Schoech and Mara Barnes
2. Allison Foust
6. Maddie Mantell