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Stating their case
Justin Goggles puts the finishing touches on his makeup in the old gym at Corvallis High School on Friday morning at the state speech, debate and drama competition. Goggles, who attended the meet with a team from Browning, was a mime. "You use your whole body and you have to be imaginative, creative," he said of his six-minute skit.
Photo by GRETA MARTINSON/Missoulian

More then 600 competitors from around state vie for top honors at the Class A-B-C speech, debate and drama meet

CORVALLIS - Mimes talked. Pirates walked. Young men in suits gawked.

The old gym at Corvallis High School gradually filled to the brim at lunchtime Friday, until it looked like someone had accidentally booked a circus and convention of lawyers into the same room.

But it was just filling with hundreds of high school students from around Montana who were in town and between rounds in the State A-B-C speech, debate and drama meets.

There are more than 600 of them here, from 67 schools. Add in approximately 300 volunteer judges, who watch 520 hours' worth of speeches, performances and debates, and you've got a busy two days.

Ask one of the drama competitors what they do, and they're likely as not to break out in performance right there in the gym or hallway.

Mac Sigler of Corvallis is the defending state champion in serious oral interpretation of literature, but he hardly looks it. His tie is disheveled and his shirttail is hanging out.

"I'm doing humorous solo acting this year," he explains, and leaps into "Dat's Amore," a piece by Ken Bradbury.

He plays Bif, the manager of a TV station whose meteorologist, Rocky Storm, calls in sick. Bif quickly recruits Manny, the singing janitor, to do the weather on the newscast.

Sigler plays Manny, too, jumping back and forth between characters.

"The weather … she be out there!" Manny informs his TV viewers.

In the gym, white-faced mimes Jaydn Ekin, a junior from Hamilton, and Matt Zachreson, a senior at Libby, duke it out in an imaginary battle. Friends outside the classrooms where they compete, they're intense rivals inside. Ekin edged Zachreson by a point to win the divisional pantomime championship last week.

"But I usually win down here, and you win at the meets in Kalispell," Zachreson points out.

"It all depends on the judges," Ekin agrees.

Dressed identically - partly by accident, they say - their performance pieces are radically different. Ekin's is called "The Magician," and it's "light-hearted and bouncy," he says.

Zachreson's piece is called "A Patriot's Duty," and is about an American soldier and a Nazi soldier in World War II who both carry drawings their children made for them before they went off to war. One kills the other, then discovers the drawing and realizes he's killed a child's father.

Between rounds, Ekins and Zachreson blow off steam by staging their silent fight. The mimes shoot each other, puff up their cheeks and blow up a wind to knock each other over, ram imaginary logs into each other's guts, flatten each other with tractors. Finally, Ekin removes an imaginary prosthesis and beats Zachreson with the leg. Not to be outdone, Zachreson unscrews his head and throws it at Ekin.

It's a 200-ring circus in the gym.

"Lot of people here," says Nichole Pellant, a freshman from Forsyth dressed as Shakespeare's Juliet. "Everyone's having fun."

Freshmen Jordan Christy and Jeremy Teeter of Fairfield, outfitted as pirates and partners competing in classical duo, go over their sword fight from the chapter in "Treasure Island" that got them to state. Courtney Olson, a senior from Sidney who's dressed as a cheerleader, searches for the humorous duo partner who tries to convince her to go to the prom in their piece.

"I finally agree to," she says, "and then he finds out I'm a really big dork."

Karen Montgomery of Anaconda listens to music she hopes will depress her in preparation for her serious solo about making a decision to pull a relative off life support.

"People who do this really love it," says Morgan Maul-Smith of Corvallis. "Placing (at state) really isn't that important."

"Is too!" says Kevin Byrne, also of Corvallis, who with Kayleigh Burres performs a piece called "A Pair of Lunatics."

Corvallis was also the site of the state meet in 2001. "And we usually host a meet that's two-thirds the size of this one" before state, says coach Doug McConnaha.

There are several categories in which debaters, speakers and thespians can compete.

Preliminary rounds continue Saturday morning. The top 16 in each category advance to the semifinals at 1 p.m., and the top eight move on to the finals at 3:30 p.m. Competitors who've been eliminated generally pack the rooms to watch the finalists in their categories.

"Then comes the rough part," says Hamilton's Ekin.

The finalists must wait for as long as two hours as judges' scores are totaled before learning who finished where, and which schools will earn team championships.

Loyola Sacred Heart is gunning for a remarkable 21st consecutive straight State Class B speech and debate title.

Individual and team champions will be revealed at an awards ceremony at 6 p.m. in the new gym.

Reporter Vince Devlin can be reached at 523-5260 or at vdevlin@missoulian.com.

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