Debate over: Park City High School is the state champ
‘From the beginning, it felt like this was our year’
March 14, 2017
There can be no argument about this: The Park City High School debate team is a state champion.
For years, ever since Park City's revamped debate program first tasted success, its students have believed that winning a state title was a matter of when, not if. Their forecast became fact over the weekend, as the team narrowly edged Logan High School to capture the 2017 Class 3A championship.
Though the students' confidence never wavered, the victory was sweet because of what had come before it. After years of working to establish itself as a force in Class 3A, the team thought it had reached the pinnacle last year. Instead, it fell just four points short in the state championship, losing the title to Juan Diego Catholic High School.
This time, though, their self-assuredness was rewarded.
When they were announced as the state champions, several seniors and team leaders rushed the stage to accept the trophy. Adam Hickey, a junior who's been on the team for three years, said the entire season felt like the culmination of years of progress. That moment made all the hard work worth it.
"From the beginning, it felt like this was our year because we came so close last year," she said. "We knew we were getting better. It's been really cool because every year, getting closer and closer to first was pretty motivating. We worked our way to the top."
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For Sharon Ellsworth-Nielson, a teacher at PCHS and the debate coach, the state title was validation of the program. More than simply winning, though, she was most proud of how her students did it. Over the last few years, they have taken ownership of the team. Team members enticed their friends to join, then helped coach them from novices to experienced debaters in their own right. Everyone's skills grew. A collection of talented debaters became a team.
The results speak for themselves.
"The TEAM has done this by working as a TEAM," Ellsworth-Nielson said in an email statement. "The entire team supporting and cheering on each other, the individual events working together with their event leads, the countless practice rounds and tournaments and ballot review and re-working of cases and speeches has paid off in a very 'cause and effect' way, even in the uncertain, subjective world of high school tournaments and judges."
Just because the team has at last reached the top, though, doesn't mean its journey is over. Next year, it will move to the larger Class 4A, a bump that presents a new mountain to climb.
Boyana Martinova, a third-year debater, said she, along with the rest of her teammates returning next year, understands the challenge that awaits but isn't satisfied with one state title.
"It's going to be bigger," she said. "But I personally think that's exciting because it just means we all need to step up and go to harder tournaments throughout the course of the year. I'm excited for that and hopefully we can figure it out."
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