Ardmore High School’s speech and debate team, The Act, sniffled their way to the top of three competitions before the holiday break.
The team placed first, third and first again overall in competitions in Seminole State College, Broken Arrow High School and Bixby High School respectively.
“I’ve never placed third at a speech tournament before like that,” Brian Gunter, The Act coach, said. “I took a ton of brand new students who’d never been to a tournament before, and I only took three or four seniors and juniors.”
About 30 team members are new to The Act, which has about 70 students total, and Broken Arrow marked their first competition in many cases. Many students were also sick during the competitions. Gunter was also out for a week in the lead-up to the competition.
“I had a lot of tournament drops,” Gunter said. “It was chaotic, and the kids had
substitutes. I went to the tournament with them and stuff, but outside of the fact we came in third, I think it was the most beneficial of all three. It completely changed the kids’ attitudes.”
Gunter said the tournament experience was particularly helpful to the teams’ newcomers, whom he said did exceptionally well at Bixby.
“They got it though their heads, they snapped it together,” Gunter said. “Everything was great.”
A fourth tournament in Choctaw was rescheduled due to weather. Now, the team will hit eight tournaments within 10 weeks once school is back in session, starting the week after the break.
“Then we have a week off, we go to four in February and two in March,” Gunter said. “Spring break, two weeks of rehearsal, and then we go to state.”
Gunter said a large number of seniors graduated last year, and about 20 of the 30 newcomers are freshmen. He said he attributes the shift to the middle school speech and debate program, which started this year.
 “That’s a really great thing, we’ve been really working to get students who are freshmen into the debate program,” Gunter said. “In the past, we’ve gotten kids who are sophomores, juniors and seniors and we’re like, ’No!, we’re glad you’re here, but we need to bring in incoming freshmen!’ This is the first year we’ve really been able to do that.”