The Power-Dutton/Brady Speech and Drama team will head into the state meet this week.

In a historic first, the Montana High School Association committed to an all-virtual competition for the 2020-2021 speech, drama and debate season — and like every other school program this season, it had both its challenges and rewards, said PDB coach Matt Sutherland.

“Practices were masked and socially distanced. Remote tournaments faced bandwidth-starved audio/visual issues as competitors performed to pinhole cameras on laptops,” he said. “Gone were the early morning bus rides to distant school arenas and the camaraderie forged en route. The electricity of the crowd, the adrenaline and the hustle to the next round was reduced to the buzz of fluorescent lights in cold, empty classrooms. There were no cheers from packed auditorium award ceremonies or taking the stage in triumph. Yet, in the end, the students did have their chance to compete.”

Maggie Toeckes, Josh Castaneda and Cheyenne Green will compete in the state meet. Toeckes from Power took first place in impromptu speaking. Cheyenne Green from Dutton-Brady, who boldly switched out of original oratory halfway through the season, won second place in her new event, mime. Josh Castaneda of Dutton-Brady finished in sixth place in spontaneous oral interpretation.

Five virtual meets preceded the divisional hosted by Belfry, Red Lodge, Choteau, Three Forks and Great Falls Central Catholic. Each of the PDB competitors showed progress across these meets and their momentum seems to have peaked just at the right time, Sutherland said. “Toeckes especially signaled the rise when she won second place in impromptu at the Great Falls Central Catholic meet,” he said.

The season began with three other participants; Nathin Sutto from Dutton-Brady and Herbert Carlsson and Garret Willmarth, both from Power.

“The PDB team is indebted to the efforts of the coaches at Choteau High School, Cody Marney and Lisette Hofer, for their incredibly effective, responsible and composed efforts under pressure to coordinate the entire B/C Division during this experimental season,” Sutherland said. “Their deeds running the show, databasing day after day, chasing down virtual issues and troubleshooting a multitude of problems on the fly speak volumes about their commitment to the students of Montana — and to a better spoken future for our public figures yet to be.”