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Dynamic Duo Reflect on State Title

Griffiths, Murphy bring home top prize in Public Forum Debate

In their first three seasons with the Three Forks High School Speech, Drama, and Debate Team, Maddie Griffiths and Noah Murphy had many accomplishments, including several trophies at the Class B/C State Meet. After joining forces as a Public Forum Debate team as seniors, the talented duo reached new levels of success, culminating with a Class B/C State Championship at the end of January in Choteau.

Griffiths and Murphy both joined the team as freshmen for the 2020-21 season.

Murphy laughed as he said he hadn’t joined the team but was told by former Coach Greg Overman that he had been signed up and would do it. After competing in Lincoln Douglas Debate in ninth grade, Murphy would switch gears to Public Forum Debate for the next two seasons and finished sixth at state in 2022 and fifth in 2023 with partner Arlo Smith.

Griffiths also started debating as a freshman but transitioned to speech events during her sophomore and junior seasons, where her strong resume included a second-place finish at state in Memorized Public Address in 2022 and a third-place finish in Oratory in 2023.

Griffiths said she had a class together with Murphy where they had a debating game, and they always ended up arguing against each other.

“We weren’t really friends per se, but we always debated each other. At the beginning of the year, we decided to join forces and come together,” she said.

Three Forks Debate Coach Diona Elms said the duo are polar opposites, but she saw a passion and a fire between them when they came together.

“They are go-getters. I love how they speak their minds and their truths. They are just very honest. The way they connected with me, an adult they didn’t even know, it’s kind of like we had known each other forever. They are not afraid of anything,” Elms said.

As far as the two coming together as a team as seniors, Griffiths said the dynamic was interesting early on.

“We both have very different personality types and debating styles. So, it was definitely trial and error to figure out where our balance was. He might be better at writing the cases, but I’m better at sorting the evidence. It was about finding where we worked best together,” she said.

Murphy admitted he knew early on the two could have a special season.

“Just debating with her the first time, I realized we definitely have got something,” he said.

After taking third at the first meet of the season, Griffiths and Murphy would finish no lower than second the rest of the year.

It was after a few competitions that Griffiths also realized what the two could accomplish.

“We were feeding off each other, and our energy was matching. No matter how difficult the opponent was, we knew we had to debate the best we could,” she said.

Elms also knew the duo was on the verge of something special.

“You have this team coming together for the very first time. They are seniors, and they are busy. You have one who is a valedictorian and another who is a debater by day and a rock star by night. They stayed true to what they were doing. They were so busy throughout the week, day and night. When they did come together at the meets, they just connected like a magnet. You don’t meet a team of debaters, a duo like that, very often. I can’t say enough about these two. They are outstanding,” Elms said.

Throughout the season, the two would work individually on the case, with Griffiths saying they would put in about 10 hours each week to prepare for a meet.

Murphy said much of the work was writing the case or finding evidence.

“Mainly making the case stronger,’ he said.

After finishing second to a team from Jefferson at Divisionals, Griffiths said they were a little nervous going into state.

It would be a thrilling journey at the state meet in Choteau with a Public Forum Debate Topic of “Should the United States Federal Government Repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act?”.

“By the time we got to the second day, all the odds were literally stacked against us. There were rule challenges and difficult rounds, and our quarterfinal round was against a really good team we had debated before. So, we were a little bit nervous we might get knocked out. We set all the odds aside and continued to progress until our final round, which was against Jefferson. We had gone against them at Divisionals, and we had lost to them. So, for our final round, we were a little bit nervous, but we were ready to make a comeback,” Griffiths said.

Going into the finals, Murphy was eager to get another shot at the team from Jefferson.

“We were just ready to beat them. It felt like it was our time. You build up your case with more and more evidence through the year, and I had spent the night before state just finding every piece of evidence I could. When it came time for Jefferson, they really had no attacks on our case. It was basically asking for a lot of evidence, and this time, we literally had a lot of it,” he said.

With the previous rule challenges against the Three Forks team, their final round was still taking place when the other state champions were starting to be announced.

Once the debate was finally finished and it was time for the winners to be announced, Griffiths can remember feeling this would either be super awesome or she would be disappointed.

“Finally, after what felt like forever, the announcer said, ‘in second place from Jefferson,’ and I about collapsed. I started crying and hugging Noah. We just felt a sense of accomplishment. It was something we had been striving for since our freshman year. It was amazing to have all the support from Ms. Elms and our parents. There were a lot of tears,” Griffiths said.

Murphy said he was freaking out when he heard they had won the state title.

“It was really great for us to win state. I don’t know if there has ever been a Public Forum team from Three Forks to win state,” he said.

Elms praised the talented duo for their accomplishment.

“I have been a teacher for many moons, and there are kids that cross your path that truly inspire you. That’s what these two have done for me. I didn’t know how they would work together, and they worked together brilliantly,” she said.

After the challenges with the rules committee at state, Elms said the debate team, much like her, doesn’t like being told no.

“When there are tough moments, your persistence and dedication have to be there. And that’s exactly what they have. Two seniors that have never debated together, they won a state championship and put Three Forks on the map for that,” she said.

Looking towards the future, both Griffiths and Murphy have their eyes on attending law school. Murphy will be studying pre-law and music tech at Montana State University, and Griffiths plans to pursue a bachelor’s in political science with a pre-law track.

“I really just hope to continue using these skills I’ve acquired in the past four years. That will benefit me in the future,” Griffiths said.

Elms is elated the two have decided to pursue a future in law.

“It doesn’t get any better than that. It was my honor and my privilege to be their coach. I hope these two are in my life forever. I just can’t say enough about them as seniors, human beings, and future attorneys. They are two beautiful, brilliant minds,” Elms said.

For Griffiths, it is also extremely important that the hard-working students in speech and debate get into the spotlight.

“We don’t tend to get a lot of recognition. That is something that definitely discourages some of the upcoming freshmen who are thinking about joining. We want them to be recognized. We want them to know their extracurriculars are just as important,” she said.

 
 
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