Talking Saints Wrap Up the Year in Alaska

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

HELENA – The Talking Saints ended their year with a snowball fight in Alaska, celebrating a good showing in the championship tournament of newly formed Yaatly Debate League. Forty-five teams from 11 states qualified for the event held at the University of Alaska in Anchorage, April 8-10.

The Carroll first-year team of June LePage of Lewistown, Mont., and Madi McDonald of Missoula, Mont., reached the championship round and placed second in the novice division. McDonald was named 6th best speaker, and LePage was 8th.

Carroll’s two open teams finished just a few speaker points short from advancing to the final rounds. Competing were juniors Vicente Gallardo of Butte, Mont. and Roisin O’Neill of Lake Oswego, Ore. Senior Ally Haegele of Helena, who’s been accepted to three law schools, debated with Carroll alum Frank Stumbo, now a law student at University of Montana.

“The tournament permitted graduate students, so when Ally’s partner could not attend, Frank stepped in,” said Northup. “They lost the tiebreaker that kept them from semifinals.”

The tournament marked the first in-person event for Carroll debate teams since January 2020.

“For two years, we have played it totally safe and competed online, never leaving campus,” said coach Brent Northup. “For some students, who finished high school online, this was their first in-person competition, ever. I was the cautious one who stayed home, but I’m itching to travel, too.”

“As a freshman who had never had in-person debate during high school, being able to look the judges and competition in the eyes while constructing a case was both an exhilarating and humbling experience,” said LePage.

LePage and McDonald’s final round topic was on the merits of veganism.

“I immediately began to tear up and sweat,” said LePage. “But Madi stayed cool and collected. She opened our case on the morality of veganism. I reiterated her strong stances and we left the round confident in our performance and proud of our improvements.”

Before the tournament started, the eight debaters enjoyed a tour of the countryside and waterfront near Anchorage, including a visit to a wildlife preserve to be greeted by grizzlies, a caribou, moose, wolves, a muskox, and a porcupine.

The tour van drove along the ocean and then turned inland, towards a snowfield, with a trail along a ridge that led to a waterfall.

“The view was worth it,” said first-year Anna Brown of Olympia, Wash.

For one student from Eastern Montana this was the first time she’d seen the ocean.

“The ocean kind of goes on forever,” said Angelica Sutton, a first-year from Wolf Point, Mont. “Before this, the biggest body of water I’d ever seen was a dam and a lake.”

But the highlight was the snowball fight.

“We built a snowman which was promptly destroyed in the snowball fight,” said one. “Everyone was into it. I’m afraid coach Teigen took one to the head.”

The trip lifted spirits before final exams.

“Overall the trip to Alaska was phenomenal,” said Gallardo. “The scenery was a beautiful backdrop to Madi and June's success. Apart from the competition, the tour of the countryside and exploration of downtown Anchorage were unforgettable experiences."

A week earlier, on April 1-3, first-year student Emma Peterson of Belgrade, Mont., competed at the National Speech Tournament in Lincoln, Neb.

“The competition was intense,” said Peterson. “But seeing the best did not discourage me, rather showed me what I can shoot for. Some I want to replicate and some I don’t.”

Peterson said she saw no cornfields, but found great restaurants.

“The best part was Asian food in Lincoln,” said Peterson. “Anna (assistant coach Anna Hoerner) and I had Thai-rolled ice cream with fruit on top. It was so good we went twice.”