By Gretchen Wehmhoff

Skagway School’s Debate, Drama and Forensics (DDF) coach, Kent Fielding, received the 2021 Coach of the Year (COY) Award after the state tournament.

Skagway’s coach for 15 years, he was nominated by Mt. Edgecumbe and selected by fellow DDF coaches statewide. 

Fielding coached at Mt. Edgcumbe where they won a state title in drama, before his tenure at Skagway School. This is his third nomination and first COY title. Fielding led Skagway to Alaska state forensic titles in 2018 and 2019.

“He’s always so encouraging to his kids, my kids, everyone’s kids,” said Mt. Edgecumbe DDF coach, Marcia Drake. 

Drake said Fielding was instrumental in staying positive when the competitive season looked like it might not happen due to the pandemic.  Along with other coaches and partners with DDF,  Fielding encouraged the Alaska State Activities Association to work with the coaches to make the year work for the students. 

The tournaments went online and judges tuned in from across the state.

Fielding says this was a tough year for Skagway in the state tournament. With the death of Karen Garduque and the relocation of her daughter, Loren Garduque, the team captain and spiritual leader, the group lost several weeks of work.

“Without Loren we were unable to continue our readers theatre, which was based on Black Lives Matter and Breonna Taylor,” said Fielding.

Fielding believed the readers theater troupe had an excellent chance of making finals at the State Championships.

While the coach praised Callia Fielding and Tessa Murphy for their performance in the individual events, he said  they really turned it on for the Western Washing Qualifying Tournament. These event leads up to the National Speech and Debate Association  National Championship (NSDA) and the National Catholic Forensic League’s (NCFL) Grand Tournament. 

Callia qualified for NSDA in Informative speaking and in oration for NCFL. Murphy is the first alternate for NSDA in dramatic interpretation.

Fielding says he has been lucky to have “many talented students and coaches.” 

“The list of students who have won state or awards at state and/or qualified for nationals is long,” said Fielding.

The coach shared his gratitude for other coaches and team volunteers: Jonathan Baldwin, Danny Brady, Sadie Murphy, Darsha Sqartsoff and Shelby Surdyk.