P O W E L L, W y o. - If your metal detector buzzed to life last week and started beeping frantically, don't be alarmed. It probably just registered the huge influx of metal coming into Park County with the return of the Northwest College Forensics Team from the Phi Rho Pi National Tournament in Chicago April 14-20.
The speech team came home with enough gold, silver and bronze awards to claim its highest finish on record at the culminating tournament of the season. Nine of the 10 students who made the trip contributed to the medal count, an unprecedented number of NWC national award winners.
For their efforts, the team scored a gold in debate and a bronze overall. The student who packed the heaviest bag home was Bryce Cornatzer, a sophomore from Tacoma, Wash. He loaded a gold, two silvers and a bronze into his suitcase. For the gold in prose, he brought to life the emotions of a male nurse facing the task of telling a father his son had just died. Heart-wrenching scenarios were Cornatzer's long suit at the national competition - one of his silver awards was for a dramatic interpretation of a troubled teen facing the death penalty for the murder of his parents after their years of abuse. On top of those, he took a bronze in parliamentary debate and placed fifth in the Bovero Taber Award for the tournament's outstanding individual.
The Powell and Cody communities were also well represented at the national tournament. Nolan Goubeaux, a 2006 Cody High School graduate, went bronze for three, picking up medals in debate, extemporaneous speaking and impromptu speaking. His assigned topics for the extemporaneous and impromptu events covered social security, the housing market and raising children, among others.
He teamed up with Cornatzer in parliamentary debate. On the way to claiming bronze in the medal round, the two debated the pros and cons of controlled burn policies, technological advances and bees, among other topics.
Goubeaux, who studies communication and political science at Northwest, was recently selected for his Outstanding Academic Achievement by the NWC Communication Division. After graduating in May, he'll transfer to the University of Wyoming to complete his education.
From Powell, Zack Eckerdt and Danyon Satterlee each added two silver awards, and Doni Rae Chouinard contributed a bronze. Eckerdt's winning performances were in prose and impromptu. Satterlee, a national forensics champion in high school, earned her silvers for an oral interpretation and her duet with Cornatzer.
The NWC debaters argued their way around assistance to Africa, altering the presidential election, facial recognition biometrics, homeschooling, the justice system, the environment and other topics on their way to supremacy in debate.
Chouinard, also of Powell, was one of the individuals who contributed to the squad's gold finish by teaming with ReAnna Kero of Red Lodge, Mont., for a bronze in parliamentary debate.
Kero was just one of four Montana students who contributed to the national treasure for Northwest. Lilli Schoer of Billings earned a bronze award in both poetry and program oral interpretation categories. The debating duo of Pam Garman and Tiffani Kennedy from Townsend, Mont., left their mark in both debate categories. Together, they scored a silver as a parliamentary debate team. Individually in the Lincoln-Douglas debate competition, Garman picked up another silver and Kennedy grabbed the bronze.
The Northwest Speech Team, coached by Duane Fish, Jeannie Hunt and Fred Ebert, has long been known as a national powerhouse in collegiate forensics. Even when fielding young squads, the NWC coaches marvel as each year's team members seem determined to exceed the accomplishments of their predecessors. The 2007-08 squad matched the previous year's perfect win record by taking community college sweepstakes at every tournament during the regular season, and then topped that with the best national finish in the school's history.