Hilltalkers And Hawktalkers Shine At State Speech And Debate Competition

Members of the Los Alamos High School Hilltalkers prepare to head to the State Speech and Debate Competition held last month. Photo Courtesy LAPS

Eighth grader Matthea Fung doing her interpretation of the bunny named Edward Tulane, who is the main character in the book “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” by Kate DiCamillo. Photo Courtesy LAPS

Members of the Los Alamos Middle School Hawktalkers. Photo Courtesy LAPS


The Los Alamos High School Hilltalkers garnered several top honors at the New Mexico State Speech and Debate Competition held last month. The strong showing by the entire Hilltalkers team earned them a seventh consecutive Speech and Debate School of Excellence honor.

“Our students did an outstanding job at this level of competition,” said LAHS Speech and Debate Team Coach Margo Batha. “I am proud of each and every one of them.”

Students winning awards include:

Yunseo Kim–1st place, Program of Oral Interpretations 

Olivia Koo and Izze Thomas–1st place in Duo Interpretation 

Pippa Fung and Taylor Kanzleiter–3rd place in Duo Interpretation

Rylee Mechum and Keturah Sherrill–4th place in Duo Interpretation

Dana Roelofs–1st place in International Extemporaneous Speaking

Brian Han–5th place in International Extemporaneous Speaking

Hana Raby–6th place in Dramatic Interpretation

Max Posada–1st place in Lincoln Douglas Debate (tie)

Erin Gattis–1st place in Lincoln Douglas Debate (tie)

Uxue Sansinena–3rd place in Lincoln Douglas Debate

“This is the third year in a row that Yunseo has won first place in the program of oral interpretation category,” noted Mrs. Batha.

For team members Linnhtet Htoon, Adeline Feng and Rebecca Li, this was their first trip to the state competition as a Hilltalker.

“Yun, Olivia, Izze, Pippa, Taylor, Keturah, Dana, Brian, Max, Uxue, and Adeline were all part of my LAMS (Los Alamos Middle School) program (Hawktalkers) before joining the Hilltalkers,” said LAMS Speech and Debate Coach Sherri Bublitz. “It is wonderful to see how the middle school program, while successful in its own right, prepares students for stellar performance at LAHS and beyond.”

The Hawktalkers sent six students to the state tournament, where the team earned a Speech Team of Honor award. Matthea Fung was named state champion for dramatic interpretation. The duo of Luke Creel and Kenny Linn competed in the public forum category, and Nishta Mukundan, Maya Snowden and Alyssa Sun were LIncoln-Douglas debaters.

For her dramatic interpretation, Matthea chose an excerpt from “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” by Kate DiCamillo, which has as a main character a bunny named Edward Tulane.  “Students must act out the characters and props in a book using only their bodies and voices to differentiate between characters and the items they interact with,” explained Ms. Bublitz.  “Scene changes, characters, and props must be very clear, since there are no costumes or props allowed.”

The Hilltalkers have been around for the past 60 years, garnering a number of awards and accolades over the years. The Hawktalkers were started in 2011. Most members transition to the Hilltalkers once they enter high school.

In 2019, Mrs. Batha was named the National Speech & Debate Association (NSDA) National Educator of the Year. Ms. Bublitz received her first Diamond Award from the NSDA, recognizing a professional career that combines excellence and longevity in speech and debate education.