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The LEAP Student Blog

Ford Powers Chiawana HS | Be Excellent


Author: Ford Powers   
Grade: Senior
School: Chiawana
Mascot: Riverhawks
League: Mid-Columbia 4A
Classification: 4A

Be Excellent.

It’s 10:00pm as my teammates and I pile into the train car, Expository boards, notecards, and Impromptu packets along with us. Our destination is Glacier High, a school with a fierce reputation for being the absolute best at Speech and Debate, and the Montana state champs for several years in a row. Tonight we’ll sleep on the train, traveling over 400 miles to an unfamiliar, cold wasteland called Kalispell. Now why would any self-respecting teenager give up precious days of their Christmas break to compete at this level? The answer is a simple call, but by no means an easy one.

Be excellent.

What is excellence? Is it as vague as “your best effort”, or as specific as the most elite individual in a given field? I submit that it’s somewhere in between. Excellence isn’t a state of being, or a level that can be obtained permanently. It’s a constant race, an opponent you chase down who never stops or slows. Any amount of slack or laziness, and it will speed past you once more. It’s going to one of the hardest places for Speech in the Northwest, despite knowing you will lose terribly. It’s striving to improve, even if you’re near or at the top. Malene, another teammate of mine, practiced relentlessly on the train ride up, despite already having her piece down, forwards and backwards. Her results speak for themselves. Malene is one of less than 6 people in the State of Washington that have achieved the level of Academic All American in Speech.

Be excellent.

“I actually really like this script. Let’s test it out, and see how it works.” My partner, Caleb and I were discussing what piece we should use for our Dual Interpretation (or Duo) this year. Duo is sort of “our” event. It was the first event I’d ever done in speech, and in the two previous years we’d placed at State in Duo. Suffice to say, picking the script that you would base your interpretation on for the year was vitally important. Our coach, Mrs. Hyde (a former legendary Montana coach, and diamond ranked in the National Speech and Debate Association) had suggested the movie Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. She advocated for the script, because it featured the same kind of humor we had been successful with in the past, but yet offered a good deal open to interpretation. And, she added, it “fits with our theme for the year”, the theme being:

Be excellent.

My hopes sinks lower and lower as each Montana team gives their performance. Generally there’s about seven Duo teams in a room, per round. After seeing the first four Duos in our round perform, I realize we’re completely screwed. Speech works on a ranking system. Each round you’re directly competing with the others in your room for first place, second, third and so on. Once the finals round comes, those with the highest ranked in their perspective rooms compete for the last time that tournament. And after watching the first four go, I’m certain we can’t get any better than fifth in this round. Walking back to our team after the round I turn to Caleb and say, “These guys are literally better than state finals last year.” He agrees without hesitation. Their movements, voices, coordination, scripts, everything about them was one hundred percent professional, and two hundred percent better than us.

Be excellent.

Tired, but excited voices penetrate the silence on the train ride back. We’d gone up against the best of the best, and still managed to put three of our tiny eight man team into a semifinalist round, something our coach didn’t think was possible going in. Still, the number one point of conversation was how much work we still had to do. “You’ve seen what it takes to be, and beat the best.” Mrs. Hyde reiterates the point we’re all aware of. Before falling asleep, I go over with Caleb some of the ideas we decided to steal from the teams here. Our team captain, Baylee Easterday (who’s ranked #1 in our state for Speech & Debate overall) gives us a pep talk, her voice almost gone from the hours of speaking we’d done over the past two days. We won’t ever see these teams again, but our region and our state won’t know what hit them.

Be excellent.


January 2018

1/17/2018 Ford Powers Chiawana HS | Be Excellent
1/8/2018 Tabitha Messineo Puyallup HS | School Spirit

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