Mullen’s Speech and Debate program continues to reach new heights

By Neil H. Devlin, Mullen Sports Information Director
The consistency and excellence of Mullen’s Speech and Debate program continues to reach new heights.

Recently, the Mustangs’ S&D earned two more acknowledgements, and they are considerable.
For one, Mullen was cited for attending a national tournament for 50 years. For another, the Mustangs joined the organization’s Top 100 Club.

“Not a whole lot of schools have attended more than Mullen,” program coach Mike Trevithick said, “and, basically, they have a way of counting strong programs, which is based on the number of competition points students have earned. Schools are ranked based on that.

“Ever since we started coaching and under (the late) Frank (Sferra, nationally renowned in the field), we’ve had this distinction of being in the club. We’re basically in the top-seven percent of schools in the country. There’s a fairly small group of schools that are considered pretty elite competitors.”
Trevithick credited Mullen’s recognition three ways.

“One,” he said, “I would say it speaks to the legacy of the school and leadership that built the program. Frank was wonderful.

“Two, it states really strongly to the alumni of the school. We have a lot of people very committed to and supportive of speech and debate. That has a lot to do with it.

“And, three, the consistency of the students themselves. Year in, year out, we can find 30-to-40 that want to compete at a high level and are capable of it, and end up showing their talents and skills throughout the course of the season.”

Former Mullen President Carl Unrein witnessed the program’s prowess during his tenure.
“Through perseverance and dedication, Mike and (wife) Heidi (a Mullen teacher) have built the team back up to prominence,” he said. “It’s respected locally, regionally and nationally. They have grown program participation in the true legacy of Frank Sferra.”

Tony Messenger, Class of ’85 and a former program member who recently was honored by Mullen after winning the Pulitzer Prize as a metropolitan columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, agreed.
“It’s the Frank Sferra legacy,” he said. “The beauty of what he did was when we were freshmen, we learned from seniors. They knew what we were going through and they guided us. That’s the sort of generational culture I assume is still going on.

“The culture was the young debaters learned from the older debaters.”

Board of Trustees member Walt Coughlin, Class of ’80, said “it’s incredible. Mullen has always had a tremendous history of excellence in speech and debate, and it continues.”

The practical aspects of speech and debate, he added, are real as they “carry forward incredibly well, a good life skill to have.”

Also calling his speech-and-debate time “the best part of my high-school experience,” Coughlin, an investment banker, said “we got to go to different places, see different schools ... and I use the speaking skills every day of my life.”

Occupying a lofty perch and staying there remains the goal for the Mustangs.

“We have to keep it up by keeping good students every year and keeping up membership,” Trevithick said. “It’s a tribute to the strength of Mullen’s program.”