State championships come in many shapes and sizes at St. Thomas High School. The STH team of 30 Eagle scholars and elocutionists won first place in Academics at the 2018 TAPPS State Academic, Speech & Debate contest. They also placed second overall in the combined competition that included Speech & Debate scores.

TAPPS State Academic, Speech & Debate contest is a grueling two-day event held in Waco. STH team members participated in 18 events and earned points in 11 diverse contests, in some cases having more than one student placing in each event. Eagles scored a total of 16 times to come up with the impressive first and second place finishes in a field of 17 6A-schools, represented by 378 students competing in 19 different events.

According to Head Coach of the Academic team, Laura Thornton: “We are not just strong in math, or just strong in social studies. We are STH-strong across the board.”

The 2018 success tops five years as a contender with consecutive ascending scores. After a second place finish by the Academic team in 2017, Mrs. Thornton knew that winning was within their grasp. She recruited ten teachers as assistant coaches.

“The individual coaches for each event choose their participants, just like in a sport,” Thornton said. “Without dedicated coaches, planning meetings and organizing study materials, sending emails and reminders, and giving of themselves and of their valued time, STH could not be as successful at this event.”

The 2018 TAPPS State team took this competition seriously and had the will to win.

“For the first time, I had students coming to me and wanting scores from last year’s and previous years’ tests so that they could gauge where their own scores needed to be,” Thornton said. “During the competition, we had who I call our team statistician, David Woodlief, keeping track of other schools, how many contests we had left, how many points were available, and how many participants our competition had!”

“I’m very proud of the hard work the STH Speech & Debate team did in preparing for and competing at the TAPPS State Meet. Both veterans and newcomers came home with awards,” said Darrell Yarbrough, Head Speech & Debate Coach. “Junior Nathan Khilani took 5th place in Lincoln Douglas Debate. Freshman Patrick Pham kept the three-year streak going in Original Oratory by winning the 3rd place trophy. We are building a speech team that will dominate the TAPPS State contest.”

Three STH team members placed first in their event; Kenny Dang in Science; Nate Belcher in Social Studies; and Mathew Soto in Spanish. Nate Belcher had an outstanding performance, scoring 23 points for the team in three events, second in overall academic points scored.

Assistant Coach for Social Studies, Kirk Jopowicz, credited the team members for their success: “These young men are true self-motivated achievers and proved that they deserve the trust that was invested in them.”

2018 TAPPS State Team
Taylor Albrecht, Armando Amador, Rice Aston, Michael Banks, Nate Belcher, Zachary Bryant, Juan Castillo, Kenny Dang, Sam Donoho, Grayson Drinkard, Rodrigo Gallardo, Cooper Gottschalk, Nathan Khilani, Evan Lawson, Kellin McGowan, Tyler McStravick, Chris Miller, Joe Mundell, J.P. Nguyen, Kyle Paige, Patrick Pham, Carson Rau, Adam Rinaldi, Haden Ritchie, Parker Robertson, Jaron Shelby, Matthew Soto, Wade Swan, Chris Thomas, David Woodlief

2018 TAPPS State Coaches
Laura Thornton, Darrell Yarbrough, Kirk Jopowicz, Caroline Becker, Claire Conboy, Gloria Grande, Grover Green, Jenn McDonald, Joan McNatt, Claudia Mundell

2018 TAPPS State Results
Kenny Dang – 1st in SCIENCE
Nathan Khilani – 5th in LD Debate
Nate Belcher – 4th in SPELLING
Nate Belcher – 2nd in CURRENT EVENTS
Kyle Paige – 8th in CURRENT EVENTS
Chris Thomas – 4th in NUMBER SENSE
Kenny Dang – 6th in ADVANCED MATH
Juan Castillo – 3rd in LITERARY CRITICISM
Nate Belcher – 1st in SOCIAL STUDIES
Tyler McStravick – 3rd in SOCIAL STUDIES
Kyle Paige – 6th in SOCIAL STUDIES
Mathew Soto – 1st in SPANISH
Juan Castillo – 2nd in SPANISH
Rodrigo Gallardo – 6th in SPANISH
Chris Miller and Sam Donoho – 8th in DUET ACTING – FINALS
Patrick Pham – 3rd in ORIGINAL ORATORY – FINALS