Three questions with ... Brandon Schwager
Shane Billig and Brandon Schwager, new Lawrence High School graduates, have been debating for years, but the two are preparing to embark on their biggest tournament yet.
They will compete at the National Forensics League national debate tournament June 18 to 22 in Wichita against hundreds of other high school debate teams on the topic of national service.
The local duo qualified for the tournament in December by finishing first, with an 8-0 record, at the East Kansas National Forensics League district tournament.
"It was just a matter of taking everything from the season and putting it together at the right time and place," Billig said of the team's undefeated record at the qualifying tournament.
Schwager said they were going into the qualifying tournament as underdogs because they didn't have a stellar regular season. He said they are getting on track for the tournament by attending practice national tournaments in Chicago and at Kansas City Kansas Community College.
"At KCKCC, we heard some new argumentation, so we are trying to anticipate things we might hear at nationals," said Jeff Plinsky, the debate coach at LHS for the past two years.
The teammates are working to fine-tune their arguments - and updating their evidence - to make sure they stay on top of the competition.
"I think we are up to the task, but it will be a challenge," said Schwager, who has been competing for three years.
Qualifying for the national tournament is a team success, but they both have individual success as well. Schwager will finish his debate career with the highest number of National Forensics League points ever amassed by an LHS student. Billig will likely finish second. Points are accumulated through placings at tournaments throughout students' forensics and debate careers.
Plinsky said he was pleased with how the season turned out for the two graduates.
"What really stands out, is they bought into the way I wanted this program to run and the vision for Lawrence High debate," he said.
LHS has qualified 16 debate teams to this tournament, but this is the first team to qualify since 2001.
"I think it's a big step forward that we can compete with the schools who send someone every year," Billig said.