Ardmore High School’s speech and debate team The Act returned from Colorado having beat out hundreds of schools from around the nation at the National Individual Events Tournament of Champions.
The Act placed in the top 10 overall in the three-day tournament, but did not crack the top three. Over the course of one weekend, 2,800 students competed in five events.
“After having broken through last year and winning nationals, having one person place sixth and having done so well at NSDA, there was no stress,” The Act coach Brian Gunter said.
The competition was held at Denver East High School, a historic Denver landmark known for its strong speech and debate program, as well as its music program. The area is known for its connection to the Beat movement and its participation in the Denver Art Walk.
“Everywhere you go, there’s art on display,” Gunter said.
At this level, it’s not just rankings on the line. Finalists at the competition have opportunities to win scholarships and colleges nationwide come to the competition to recruit future students.
Alexia Gerard and Jessica Cajina placed 15th in duo interpretation for their two-person version of The Sister Act, a piece they’ve been taking to competitions since the year began. Cajina’s humorous interpretation entry placed in the top 20. Aspen Nugent and Jordan Whitwell’s duet acting pieced placed 25th.
“I was surprised the [Sister Act] duo didn’t do a little bit better,” Gunter said. “But the great thing about this tournament is that it shows you what you need to do to make adjustments. You can’t go year-to-year expecting the same or better.”
Last year, The Act won overall at NIETOC. Gunter said when it comes to national tournaments, only a small handful of schools with nigh-legendary status come away with consistently high placement.
“They’ve been doing this for 20 or 30 years,” Gunter said. “In Oklahoma, [The Act has] a reputation. There, you hear the names James Logan, Apple Valley or Eagen and the kids are either in awe or they’re shaking in their shoes.”  
Though the school year is almost over, The Act will turn right around and perform at Amuse Bouche, a dessert theater showcase at the Goddard Center, tonight. Tickets for the show are still available.
Then, finalists will compete in the National Speech and Debate Association Tournament from June 17 to 23.