By Wyatt Freeman

Ardmore City Schools recently announced it had big plans for its speech and debate program. Turns out, the school district was looking to hire the successful former Lone Grove coach, Brian Gunter, who has big ideas of his own. The coach says he is hoping to start bringing in state trophies within his first few years.

“I have plenty of experience directing with the Ardmore Little Theatre and several other places, so I want to really expand the theatre program as it is,” Gunter said shortly after his hiring was finalized at Tuesday’s school board meeting. “I plan on directing a competition one-act play this year, which I plan on making it an annual thing. We would travel the state, and potentially the country, performing. It is a whole new realm of competition, and I’m excited to see what we are capable of producing.”

In addition, Gunter and ACS officials say they may soon look into bringing back the middle school program, which was cut more than five years ago. This would expose students to the performing arts much earlier, and most likely lead to greater success at the high school level. Gunter will also serve as the theater arts director for Ardmore.

Many may remember Gunter from his time as the coach at Lone Grove High School. During his stead at that school, he enjoyed a decade of success, which included seven consecutive state championships and dozens of entries into the national tournament. Gunter was also known for having the fierce devotion of his students and their parents. Many past students still regard Gunter as one of the most important people in their lives.

“I would say that Brian Gunter did as much as anyone could expect and more for my family,” Trevor Clark says. Clark’s older brother and two younger sisters were all members of the Lone Grove speech team under Gunter. Together they hold more than a dozen state, district and national awards.

Three years ago, Gunter left Lone Grove and took the coaching position at Mesquite ISD in Mesquite, Texas. Though Gunter says he will miss his team at Mesquite, he admits it will be nice to be around family again. He says it will also be nice to compete with and against the coaches with whom he has made life-long friendships.

“I have remained in touch with all of my contacts throughout the state so that I won’t miss a beat coming back in to the Oklahoma circuit,” Gunter says. “I have spent years mentoring students from the area, and now some of them are coaches themselves, so I hope to foster some deep relationships between our team and theirs.”

Much like sports, competitive speech is divided by divisions, and Ardmore will be a step up in division for Gunter. But he says he isn’t concerned. Though there are some good teams in that division, the experienced coach knows all about the talent that exists in the Ardmore area, and believes his team will be a force with which to be reckoned.