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The Road to 44 Cemented

Wheeling Park Speech and Debate Team Secures it’s 44th State Championship
The+44th+Consecutive+State+Tournament+Winners+in+Morgantown%2C+WV+
Addy Perks
The 44th Consecutive State Tournament Winners in Morgantown, WV

In March of 1980, Wheeling Park High School’s longest-standing and most impressive achievement began. The Wheeling Park High School Speech and Debate Team won their very first state title. The team has won the West Virginia Speech and Debate State Tournament every year since then, creating their 44-year legacy. This legacy is an achievement that makes members and coaches of the team, both past and present, extremely proud.

“Upholding the team legacy was a responsibility that no one took lightly and we would stay in the theater, hiding in every nook and cranny until each piece was absolute perfection,” said Speech Team alumnus, Megan Chacalos.

Members of the team work diligently all year, with practices starting in the summer and extending till March, to practice and perfect their pieces. They compete in nine tournaments throughout the year in both West Virginia and Pennsylvania where they continuously prove their distinction. One of their big wins this year included their first place at Three Rivers which is a Pittsburgh tournament that hosted 38 schools from six different states. 

These tournaments are all in preparation for the tournament that causes a pit in the stomach of anyone who has ever been on or coached this team, States. No one understands the pressure of continuing a strong legacy like those of the Speech and Debate team.

“A State Championship for any team is stressful, but to have 43 years of teams and that big of a legacy weighing on your back is so much stress which makes it 10 times worse for us. No one wants to be the team that loses the streak,” said junior, Kelsey Holcezy.

This year the team had an extra level of pressure as they had to say goodbye to their longstanding coach and mentor, Mr. Cornforth, as he transitioned into retirement. The team not only wanted to win this year’s title for themselves but as a thank you to him and all he did for the team. Bill Cornforth accompanied the team from their last second-place trophy in 1979 to their 43rd first-place trophy in 2023. 

“I am immensely grateful that I was able to be part of something great. I am humbled to have had the privilege to march beside all the students and coaches who have continued the proud distinction of being hailed as a legacy,” said Mr. Cornforth.

The team is now being led by coaches Mrs. Nelson, Ms. Mathieu, and Mrs. Droginske. Ms. Mathieu is a speech team alumni who accompanied the team to the 25th and 26th State wins.

“[The legacy] means a lot to me because it has been a part of my life longer than it hasn’t. It has meant so much more to me than anything to be a part of the coaching staff to continue the legacy,” said Mrs. Mathieu.

Despite the stress and pressure, the 23-24 team had an impressive end to their season. 38 of the 40 team members secured a slot for States and 29 took home at least one award. The team won a total of 45 individual awards and had eight members earn the title of State Champion. Those students include Addison Perks, Grant Kenamond, Rylin Russell, Danielle Daugherty, Katelyn Smith, Ciera Faulstick, Jerome Maynard, Levi Powell, and Chloe Humway. The team as a whole was able to secure their 44th consecutive State Championship title with a lead of 330 points.

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About the Contributor
Addy Perks
Addy Perks, Staff Writer
  • Journalism I
  • Senior
  • Co-captain of the Speech Team, Vice President of Park Players, Key Club Officer
  • I am a barista at Cafe 1925
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