Wheeling Park High School Speech and Debate Coach Bill Cornforth stood recently on the J.B. Chambers Performing Arts Center stage speaking with two of his team’s most important competitors.
He was telling team co-captain Miriam Demasi and division leader Adam Payne that this year’s team needed a slogan as it prepared to capture its 38th consecutive West Virginia Speech and Debate Championship on March 3-4 at West Virginia University. Cornforth relayed to his students that this year’s Wheeling Park High School Speech and Debate Team has 38 members. Without hesitation, Payne said “38 for 38.” Cornforth said he hopes team members unite behind the “38 for 38” rallying cry.
Payne and Demasi both said the fear of not extending such a storied winning streak is major motivator.
“The thought of not winning is terrifying because Wheeling Park’s legacy has been upheld,” Payne said.
“There’s a lot of pressure,” Demasi added.
But, Demasi and Payne are no strangers to the level of pressure they will face during the state competition. Demasi will be taking part in the event for the third consecutive year, and Payne took first place in two events in last year’s competition. Demasi said each member of the team must be prepared for the competition if Wheeling Park is to extend its winning streak to 38.
“Everyone has to do their part and pull their weight for us to win as a team,” she said. “The new members need to understand what this means. As a captain, it means a lot to me personally. I want to pass along the winning tradition. This is a source of pride.”
The Wheeling Park team has competed in six competitions this year, and they have taken first place in five of them. During those competitions, the Patriots have gone up against schools from West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Demasi, who represents Wheeling Park High School’s team on the debate side, said Parkersburg High School is likely the Patriots’ most challenging debate opponent. Payne, a speech competitor, said Huntington High School is probably Park’s most difficult opponent in terms of the speech contests.
Demasi and Payne said the students they compete against in the state competition will be no strangers to them. They have crossed paths at competitions over the course of the last three years, and they’ve even become friends with their adversaries. Still, Payne said the competitive spirit is not diminished by friendship.
“We may be friends, but I still want to beat them,” he said. “I want to win no matter what. And, I absolutely know they don’t want us to win.”
“It’s a friendly rivalry,” Demasi added. “We know who their best debaters are, and we’re prepared to face them.”
Demasi said she is well aware that her time at Wheeling Park High School is quickly coming to an end. That is another reason the 2017 West Virginia Speech and Debate Competition is so important to her.
“This is the last big thing that I am going to do for Wheeling Park High School,” Demasi said. “We have to make sure that we are the team that gets 38.”
Wheeling Park High School Speech and Debate Coach Bill Cornforth discusses the upcoming state competition with co-captain Miriam Demasi and division leader Adam Payne.