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Chinook Takes First Place in Drama Sweepstakes on Saturday


December 12, 2018

Littleman Iron Bear and Nature Andrew represented the Thunderbirds at the Speech and Drama meet. Andrew captured eighth place in Humorous Oral Interpretation and Iron Bear competed in Spontaneous Oral Interpretation.

Eleven Class B and C schools competed in the Chinook Invitational Speech and Drama Meet on Saturday, December 8. At the conclusion of the meet, after storing their props and exchanging their presentation clothing or costumes for the comfort of slippers and sweatshirts, the 70 competitors and their coaches congregated in the Floyd Bowen Gymnasium for an awards assembly, which began at approximately 4:00 p.m.

Before announcing the winners, Chinook High School's (CHS) Speech and Drama Coach, Bonnie Ortner thanked the community for its support of the program, which kept 20 judges busy every hour and found 55 volunteers scheduled to judge during the final round of competition in thirteen events. To expedite the awards process, Ortner instructed the crowd in attendance to power clap for each winner, but before she began, she asked the audience to give more than a power clap to the judges, coaches, and bus drivers. In what she called a public service announcement, Ortner also encouraged the youth to return to their communities and schools as adults in support of speech and drama, working as judges or coaches to keep the program vibrant and viable.

Chinook School Board Member, Daniel Dahl, and Meadowlark Elementary Principal and former Assistant Speech and Drama Coach, Jon Martin, presented Class B Drama Sweepstakes Awards to Malta, First Place; Shelby, Second Place; and Choteau, Third Place. In Class C, Chinook walked away with First Place, CJI captured Second, and North Star took Third.

In Speech Sweepstakes for Class B, Choteau ranked First; Malta, Second; and Shelby, Third. Class C winners were CJI in First Place, Fort Benton in Second, and North Star in Third.

Three Blaine County schools participating captured bragging rights with several individual winners. From Chinook, Jase Pursley ruled the day with a first-place finish in Pantomime. Wylee Brown captured second-place in Humorous Oral Interpretation, and teammate Gavin Lemro won fourth in that same event. Meanwhile, Shay Britt and Liam Edwards enjoyed a third-place finish in Humorous Duo.

For Harlem, Stanley Spangelo captured third place in Pantomime, Alexis Bigby received fourth place for her Original Oratory, Dante Jackson won fifth place in Spontaneous Oral Interpretation, and Kassy Medrano attained seventh place in Humorous Oral Interpretation.

With every member of the Wildcat team placing, their coach, Melody Sand expressed pride in her team's performance: "I am proud of each of my kids and their dedication as a team. Making finals is hard to do, and even if they had not, they have overcome so much just to be where they are. I tell them all the time, if this were easy, everyone would do it. There is no other sport where one prepares all week, then the day of the big game, you go it alone with your coach in another room. Imagine a basketball game with the coach locked out of the gym, hoping practice paid off. That happens every weekend for us."

Hays/Lodge Pole's Nature Andrew secured eighth place in Humorous Oral Interpretation. Her coach, Paul Condon reported that the Thunderbird team is small, with only five members, two of whom competed in Chinook on Saturday-Andrew and Littleman Iron Bear.

As judges reported for service on Saturday, they were met in the high school office by Erika Smith, Special Education Aide at CHS, and Jeanne Walter, who coached with Ortner in Huntley-Project and now works with the Montana Migrant Education Program and lives in Billings. Walter, who was staying with Ortner, volunteered to help. The two women not only dispatched the judges but served as collectors of rating sheets, which were shuttled by volunteer and previous Speech and Drama member Steven Mulonet to the library, which served as the day's tabulation room. Coaches from the eleven participating schools had gathered there to run the computer program Ortner had written several years ago and is still used to calculate results and placings.

While waiting for the awards ceremony to begin, Shay Britt and Liam Edwards play a hand game with Shay's younger sister, Teagan while Gavin Lemro watches. Shay and Liam placed third in humorous duo competition.

Ortner, who is in her fifth year coaching the Sugarbeeter performers, reported that competitor numbers were down for the Chinook Invitational. She credited that reduction to dwindling enrollments and to mid-term grade checks which determine eligibility. About her own team, Ortner said, "Without question, the best part of coaching these kids is watching them develop from simply surviving a round or meet to proving to themselves that they can stand up in front of a group of people and actually get a reaction. It's seeing that progression and growth that makes the long hours rewarding."

Throughout the day, judges were treated by the culinary talents of Debbie Ramberg and Linda Ortner, who ran the hospitality room, which offered breakfast, lunch, and snacks like holiday-themed cookies and candy. Ramberg and Ortner have served in this station for five years.

Next week, the Blaine County performers will travel to competition in Choteau, a distance that will require a 2:00 a.m. departure for Harlem, who will join Chinook to bus-pool to the meet.


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