JEROME, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) - Jerome High School's advanced speech team wins their 18th state championship title in the 21 years coach Scott Burton has led the team.
Burton said he took over the team in 1998 and it has been growing since then.
"It's kind of weird. You don't think about it as something that kids want to do," he said. "But over at Jerome, it's different. It's something kids really want to be part of. It's competitive, it's tight-knit. There's a lot of team bonding."
Burton said in this past year, they had 14 spots available on the team and had over 50 students try out to be on the team.
"It's just insane, the popularity that it has," he said. "That's a testament to all the kids and the staff here at the high school."
The competition has 14 different categories they compete in and Burton said three fine arts focuses are all compiled into what they do in the speech team.
"It combines elements of debate, of drama, and of course public speaking," he said. "What we do is we have this giant hybrid and we take all of those skills and then we plug them into 14 different categories and then we just take them to state and tend to do pretty well."
Senior Abbey Andersen has been on the team for four years now and she said they won all years she has been on the team.
"It's all been super exciting. Being my senior year and being able to lead the team to another victory, it's definitely bittersweet being my last year, but it was super exciting," she said.
With her years of experience now, she said she feels more comfortable speaking in front of people.
The team spends months writing and rewriting their speeches.
"We spend a great deal of time in the writing process because we want to make sure what we say is effective," Burton said.
Following the writing process, they then practice their speeches in front of their classmates to get used to the idea of audiences and their reactions to the speeches.
The students also get help from former students of Burton's.
"They're always calling, always emailing, always saying 'what can I do to help the program," Burton said.
Senior Ruben Ramirez wants to be one of those people next year.
"It means so much to them then and it still means so much to them right now, and I'm going to be exactly like them," Ruben said.
He told KMVT he tried out for the team his freshman year after seeing the team come to his class to practice.
"I remember sitting in class and every time I saw someone walk in, I just wanted to watch their speech and loved absorbing their talent," he said.
Ruben said he didn't make it that year, but tried again the following year.
"I know that the day I was going to be on the team was the day I was going to work my butt off and prove the coaches that I could be on the team," he said.
Working hard, he was able to pull off a state championship title for dual interpretation with his partner.
"This year was my last year and so I gave it everything I had," he said.
While Burton is one constant in the past 21 years for all these championship wins, he said it's all the student's work and dedication that pulls it off, along with generations of students coming back to help out.
"It grows. When you have this, man, it just makes my job so much easier," he said. "When you got great kids and a program that is student oriented, boy, good things happen."
He said that watching students grow within the program is "phenomenal."
"To see what they do after school and the success that they have and the stuff that they apply, what they learned, it makes you proud. It really does," he said.
For Ruben, the growing relationships within the team was one thing he enjoyed other than winning.
"It helped me be able to be more comfortable and know why I'm here which is why I won," he said. "Because I feel like it's not just a competition, it's about us being a family."
Executive Director Ty Jones of the Idaho High School Activities Association had a son that was in the program.
"Jerome high school speech is one of the activities in the state of Idaho that can be considered a dynasty. Over the course of the last three decades they have shown the consistency that you would want from your activity programs in your schools... I’ve seen firsthand, while I was working at Jerome, all the great things that occur in that program. Scott does a fantastic job not only teaching kids about speech, but also teaching them life lessons that they need in order to be successful student participant," he said in a statement.
The team just won their competition last weekend and Burton said they are planning on having try-outs within the next couple of weeks.