The two-day state high school debate tournament began Friday afternoon in Lawrence.
Struggling with the paperwork, Elizabeth Richardson carried two large tubs of evidence up a flight of stairs Friday afternoon at Lawrence High School.
Arriving at the top, the Hutchinson High School junior was obviously winded.
But she was glad to have made it to the pinnacle of high school debate in Kansas -- the Kansas State High School Activities Assn. State Debate Championship.
"It's a big honor for us to be here. Hopefully, we'll do well," Richardson said, hauling her material into a classroom for the first of three rounds Friday afternoon.
She was among 450 students from more than 60 schools across the state who had qualified in regional contests to make it to the state debate tournament in Lawrence.
It continues today at LHS, Free State High School and Central Junior High.
"This is the big finale, the Super Bowl for the state," said Steve Wood, the tournament host and the debate coach for both LHS and FSHS.
Many volunteers are helping organize the debate at the three schools this weekend, he said.
"We'll have over 200 people from the Lawrence community who come to judge," he said. "That's one of the reasons we can have such a large tournament."
Wood said the tournament is an economic boon for the community because many students and their families stayed Friday night in Lawrence.
The tournament, which is free and open to the public, was to continue at 8 a.m. today and end at 4 p.m. Awards will be presented following the tournament.
The debaters have been preparing their evidence for the last month on the general topic of federal involvement in renewable energy resources, Wood said.
Teams have to be ready to debate the negative and affirmative sides of each topic, which include solar and hydroelectric energy, he said.
"I've been really excited. I'd like to win it, but there's always next year too," said Brett Elliott, a junior who is a member of FSHS four-speaker debate team.
The team qualified last week for state at the regional tournament held at Topeka High School. Other members are Matt Hicks, Evan Keller and Steve Floor.
"My goal is to win it so I can come back next year," Hicks said.
Keller predicted the event would be challenging.
"My parents think I have something on the line here, that we're representing northeast Kansas, but I'm just here to have fun," Keller said.
FSHS also has two, two-speaker debate teams: Christina Robertson and Karen Ebmeier, and Jane Elliott and Lindsay Shields.
Four LHS teams made it to the state two-speaker tournament. They are Fallon Farokhi and Justin Shmalberg, Rich Lloyd and John Finch, Michael Yimer and Chris Meyer, and Chris Bates and Sarah Scholle.
-- Dave Toplikar's phone message number is 832-7151. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.