Six Noblesville High School students rank nationally at speech and debate competition

From left, Jack Vastag, Grace Dean, Madeline Backs, Jahne Manifold, Salil Gupta and Gabby Joy. (Submitted photo)

From left, Jack Vastag, Grace Dean, Madeline Backs, Jahne Manifold, Salil Gupta and Gabby Joy. (Submitted photo)

By Kayce Patton


Six members of Noblesville High School’s speech and debate team have been nationally ranked and recognized at the National Speech and Debate Tournament.

From June 12 to 17, the students traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah, and competed at the tournament, the largest academic competition in the world.

The Miller Speech Team, coached by Evan Elliott, Michaila Nate and Chase Elliott, has previously competed at nationals, however 2016 marks the first year that any competitors have succeeded past the Top 60 in any event. Two students on Ball State University’s speech team, Lily Schwab and Riley Poynter, assisted team members with their pieces as well.

In March, each of the six students had to quality for the national competition at a district tournament. The team placed in the top 100 teams in the nation and continues to rank among the top 5 percent of teams nationally each year.

“The team practices a minimum of three days per week after school, with competitions on 80 percent of Saturdays throughout the school year,” Evan Elliott said. “Our staff of assistant coaches and former competitors trains students in 14 different competitive events. “

According to Evan, there is a minimum of 250 competitors per event and, in the case of events such as poetry, up to 425 competitors.

The six students and their rankings include:

  • Jack Vastag (senior): Competitor in United States Extemporaneous
  • Grace Dean (senior): Competitor in Informative Speaking, Top 40 National Ranking
  • Madeline Backs (senior): Competitor in Program Oral Interpretation, Top 25 National Ranking
  • Jahne Manifold (junior): Competitor in Program Oral Interpretation (Top 60) and Poetry (Top 20)
  • Salil Gupta (junior): Competitor in International Extemporaneous
  • Gabby Joy (Class of 2016): Competitor on World Schools Debate Team.

Grace Dean has been involved with speech for approximately three years now. She joined the team as a freshman and is an incoming senior at NHS.

“Speech and debate is important to me because it’s improved my public speaking ability – a skill that I will use in college and beyond,” Dean said. “The activity is an amazing way to boost one’s confidence as well.”

“I just completed my fifth year as head coach of the team,” Evan said. “Prior to coaching, I was a competitor on the Noblesville team and judged various competitions after graduation. This activity fosters the attributes necessary for long-term success in relationships, careers and life. There is nothing more important than knowing how to communicate effectively under pressure. We teach professionalism, analytical skills, problem solving, collaboration, creativity and so much more. When speech and debate students interview with colleges and prospective employers, they can be confident in knowing that they’ll have a leg up on the competition.”

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