Wheeling Park High School Speech Team Wins 39th Title

WHEELING — Disco balls were in vogue the last time the Wheeling Park High School Speech and Debate team did not claim the title of the best in West Virginia.

The Patriots won their 39th consecutive state championship on Saturday, continuing a run of victories that started in 1979. This year’s West Virginia Speech and Debate Association Tournament took place Friday and Saturday at Davis and Elkins College in Elkins, W.Va.

Coach Bill Cornforth said 32 members of the 40-member team made the trip to the tournament, and all members knew the pressure which was upon them to continue the historic streak.

“It gets a little rougher on the kids every year,” Cornforth said late Saturday. “I don’t talk about it with them — they already know about it. When they make the team as sophomores, they know what is expected of them.

“It’s wonderful working with kids who have a goal at the start of the year, and even before that.”

The speech team was permitted to practice during the recent nine-day strike by teachers. The state tournament couldn’t be moved, and Ohio County Board of Education members considered it “a one-time experience” for the students.

Cornforth said work to achieve championship number 40 starts soon, and will continue through the summer.

“It’s a year-long project that takes a lot of teamwork to get to such a high level,” he said.

Along the way, the speech team competes in a number of other tournaments throughout the state and region, including some in the Pittsburgh area. This year, they competed in 10 tournaments prior to the state championship.

Cornforth said other schools are constantly improving each year.

“Our kids win a lot of awards, but so do kids from other schools,” he said.

In addition to the overall championship, the WPHS team took home 10 first-place awards Saturday night. A complete list of winners was not available as the team traveled back in the late evening from Elkins.

Cornforth said Maguire Glass won three first-place awards in the areas of humorous interpretation, inter-duo interpretation with Hinal Pujara, and improv duo with Abby Delk.

Delk captured two first-place awards. In addition to improv duo award with Glass, she took top honors for her sales presentation.

“I just think it’s important to say I enjoy working with these students so much,” Cornforth said.