By Gretchen Wehmhoff

The DDF Panthers rocked through the competitions at the Southeast regional tournament, placing first and second in most contests. In duo interpretation of literature, Juniors Callia Fielding and Tessa Murphy placed first and Seniors Tatum Sager and Paige Turner took second. Fielding placed second in informative speaking and fourth in extemporaneous speaking. Sager took first in oration and second in informative. The reader’s theater ensemble of Fielding, Murphy, Sager, Turner and freshman Kaitlyn Tronrud took first place.

The team sent six competitors to the state tournament in Anchorage Feb. 17-19. Those six speakers brought home enough awards to receive the State Runner up Sweepstakes Award.

“Pretty amazing for such a small team,” said Coach Kent Fielding. The team limit for any school is 15 participants.

Fielding and Murphy placed first in Dou Interpretation with Sager and Turner placing second. Fielding also took second in informative speaking. The readers’ theater (RT) team of Fielding, Murphy, Sager, Athena Smith and Turner placed second.

Coach Fielding said the RT team was placing first in each of the three preliminary rounds and the audience was prepared to hear Skagway win first – but things didn’t go that way.

 “It took the Sitka team about 10 seconds to realize they had actually won,” he said

The RT team performed a collage of poetry, fiction and articles that expressed what it means to be a woman in 2021. They titled it Bodies to Society. The girls created the piece to make a statement coming from young women about the societal issues facing women. The RT received a command performance. 

“The students really wanted to make statements with the pieces they chose to do. The statement was more important to the girls than winning,” he said.

“This was probably one of the most fun seasons I’ve had coaching,” said Coach Fielding.

Skagway has sent at least one person a year to national competitions. This team is the largest team Skagway will have ever sent,” said Coach Fielding.

Sager and Turner placed first in duo interpretation at the Western Washington Qualifying Tournament March 2-4, qualifying the girls for nationals.

There are several national tournaments on the schedule for the state winners.

Fielding, Murphy, Sager and Turner will compete online at the National Individual Event Tournament of Champions May 12-14.

Fielding and Murphy will also compete at the National Catholic Forensic League in Washington, D.C. over Memorial Day weekend. Fielding, Murphy, Sager, Smith and Turner will all compete in the National Speech and Debate Association tournament in June.

Fundraising is always a part of participating in DDF.  Prior to 2019, the team normally took the state ferry to tournaments. Since then, with fewer ferries available, the team has had to fly more often, bringing the cost of going to trips sometimes out of reach.  

While the school district helps with some travel, the budget doesn’t cover it all. Fielding hopes the team can find an addition $5,000 to $7,000 to help them get to the Metlakatla and Sitka tournaments. 

Coach Fielding figures they need another $12,000 to fund the national trips. He says there will be a community performance on April 16 at Happy Endings Saloon. The team will present a variety of their pieces for about an hour and a half. They hope to accept donations at the event.