Billings students make it into a different kind of NFL

2013-05-08T10:30:00Z 2013-05-09T20:59:17Z Billings students make it into a different kind of NFLBy JACI WEBB jwebb@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

It’s been almost eight months since McKenzie Watterson and Tommy Marts began working on their events for speech and debate, but they’re not ready to let the season end without one final meet.

The two top competitors earned a spot in the National Forensics League competition in June, and, if anything, they’re more fired up than ever.

Watterson, a senior at Senior High, and Marts, a junior at West, qualified for the NFL in February. Watterson’s qualifying event is original oratory and Marts qualified in Lincoln Douglas debate. They will travel next month to Birmingham, Ala., with their coaches to test their skills against the top speech and debate students in the nation. For Watterson, the upcoming competition has been a long time coming.

“I set a goal my freshman year to go to the NFL,” she said.

Marts adds, “It’s highly competitive. It means staying up late, doing that last bit of research to win over your opponent.”

Marts said in his event, competitors debate one on one the hot issues of the day by looking at the matter philosophically and in theory, not necessarily relying on hard facts to make their arguments. New topics are selected every two meets. One topic was: Should rehabilitation be valued over retribution? Competitors need to be prepared to argue either side of the issue.

In Watterson’s event, students write a 10-minute persuasive speech, memorize it, and deliver it during their meets.

“My speech is on the importance of letting passion inspire your life,” Watterson said. “Right now, I’m being asked to make so many decisions. I use examples of people who followed their passion, like Steve Jobs and Mother Teresa.”

Watterson and Marts both credit their coaches for giving them just the right nudge to make them competitive. Marts was coached by Fred Petak and Dan Johnson. Watterson’s coach is Jenny Fleek Airne.

“My coach likes me to be a passionate speaker,” Marts said. “He calls it going on rants. It’s not just a bored kid giving a speech.”

Watterson said competing in speech all four years of high school made her a more confident speaker and student.

“It gave me skills I didn’t even know I had,” Watterson said.

Marts added, “The club is full of high-caliber people, which makes it one of the best things you can get into in high school.”

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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