Wheeling Park High School Speech and Debate Team Claims National Honor

Photo Provided The Wheeling Park High School Speech and Debate Team that recently won the Founders Award for Excellence in Speech at the Grand Nationals Speech and Debate Tournament in Louisville, Ky. Celebrating, from front left, are coach Bill Cornforth, Adam Payne, Katherine Leary, Ritika Reddy, Paushaly Sau and coach Josh Fromhart. In back, from left, are Faith Richter, Olivia Archer, Harry Weeks, Vance Mazure, Tino Kayafas, Sarah Ihlenfeld and Lillian Bischof. Not pictured are team members Danny Schultz and coach Kayla Nelson.

The accomplishments just keep on coming for Wheeling Park High School’s speech and debate team.

Less than three months after capturing the school’s 38th-consecutive state championship, six team members won awards at the National Catholic Forensic League Grand Nationals Speech and Debate Tournament, held Saturday and Sunday in Louisville, Ky.

Two students, Adam Payne and Paushaly Sau, were national finalists. The 12 participating Wheeling Park students collectively won the school’s first-ever NCFL Founders Award for Excellence in Speech as one of the six top speech teams at the tournament.

The 12 students qualified for this tournament by placing either first or second in their events at the West Virginia state tournament in March.

The students were seniors Olivia Archer, Payne and Danny Schultz; juniors Sarah Ihlenfeld, Katherine Leary, Ritika Reddy and Sau; and sophomores Lillian Bischof, Tino Kayafas, Vance Mazure, Faith Richter and Harry Weeks.

At the tournament, 2,596 students from across the country participated in one of 10 speech or debate events. Between 200-250 students competed in each event. On Saturday, each student competed in four rounds. On Sunday, each event narrowed to four break rounds: octofinals (top 48), quarterfinals (top 24), semifinals (top 12) and finals (top 6).

Six Wheeling Park students reached Sunday’s break rounds. Mazure and Richter made the top 24 in Duo Interpretation. Weeks in Student Congress and Kayafas in Declamation made the top 12.

Sau won sixth place in Oral Interpretation of Literature, while Payne took third place in Dramatic Interpretation.

Wheeling Park speech and debate coach Bill Cornforth said the team has participated in six NCFL Grand National tournaments in the last nine years, but the 2017 team has been the most successful.

It had more students reach break rounds, more students reach semifinals and more students reach the final round than any previous Wheeling Park group.

Payne’s third-place award is the second-highest honor for a Wheeling Park student at the national competition, bested only by Dale Sampson’s 2009 first-place award.

“I deeply thank our school and county administrators and school board for supporting this trip,” Cornforth said. “Allowing our students to compete on this national level and observe high-level students from around the country was the highest speech and debate educational experience.”