WHEELING, W.Va. — The tradition continues at Wheeling Park High School where the school’s speech and debate team claimed its 35th consecutive state championship.
The win came last weekend at West Virginia University during the West Virginia Interscholastic Forensics League state speech and debate tournament.
“Thirty-five was the biggest thing on everyone’s minds going into this tournament,” said Devyn Nickerson, a senior at Wheeling Park and the debate captain. “It’s the only thing that mattered and we just wanted to win it for the team, the school, our coaches and the community.”
In Saturday’s competition, Huntington High finished in second place, followed by Parkersburg South in third place.
In the tournament, team members compete in 14 individual speech and debate events that include broadcasting, dramatic interpretation, salesmanship, original oratory and impromptu speaking.
The scores from each individual round are then combined to determine the champion.
Wheeling Park’s winning streak started in 1980 when current head coach Bill Cornforth was an assistant.
“It just fired the kids up and they didn’t want to drop it, so the second year they worked harder and the third year they worker harder and then, I think, it became a case where no year really wanted to stop the streak,” said Cornforth.
That streak is intact and, Nickerson said, the whole community had a role in it.
“Everyone here knows about it (the Speech and Debate Team). They support us….It’s really a school effort. Everyone looks forward to hearing that we’re coming back with the next championship.”
Cornforth was a guest on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline” along with Nickerson and Bev Banks, a senior.
The other students who competed were Willie McCleery, Emily Anderson, Lisa Fanning, Kathleen Buch, Riley Bresnahan, Blake Humphrey, Hannah Meredith, Philip Schwartz, Aimee Schultz, Jesse Williams, Rosaline Clark, London Orzolek, Colleen Dorsey, Jorden Crow, Megan Chacalos, Abby Reeves, Karen Laska, Elizabeth Kaniecki, Lydia Holmstrand, Maddie Hall, Liam Casey, Austin Gage, Emily Capehart and Alex Buch.
The assistant coaches for Wheeling Park are Kayla Nelson, Lori Mathieu and Joshua Fromhart.