It’s been a busy few weeks for The Act, Ardmore High School’s speech and debate team.
Twenty-two students competed in the Colorado Mile High Invitational at Denver Law University the weekend of December 1. 16 students advanced to the semifinals, with six advancing to the finals.
“That was largely funded by a grant we received recently from the Southern Oklahoma Memorial Foundation,” speech and debate coach Brian Gunter said. “It allowed us to attend that tournament with very little out-of-pocket expense.”
Before long, they were on the move again. The team competed in the Bixby Invitational, a regional qualifying tournament where they won sweepstakes, taking 25 of the 36 qualifying spots.
“There were several students who did really well,” Gunter said.
After returning from Christmas break, students working on original oratory pieces attended a three-day workshop with writing instructor Kiara Brown, who helped them fine-tune their original scripts and performances for national qualifiers. Brown taught a similar workshop last summer.
“She’s an excellent instructor, she’s a former national champion herself,” Gunter said. “The kids asked me in November if we could have her back.”
Gunter said original oratories can vary widely depending on the student.
“She’s really good at helping kids write with their voice,” Gunter said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we took eight or nine oratories to the state tournament this year. She really took it to the next level.”
Dalton Lantrip, a senior, earned the National Speech & Debate Association’s All-American Award for the points he’s earned in speech and debate competitions over the course of high school.
According to the association, fewer than 500 students nationwide earn the award. Lantrip is the second student to earn the award since Gunter rebooted the speech and debate team four years ago.  
“We went from zero to 30 the first year, 30 to 60 the second, 60 to 85 the third and I’m keeping it there,” Gunter said. “And this year, we’re starting the middle school program.”
This weekend, the students will be attending another competition, this time in Quintin, Okla.