School might be out, but five Lawrence High School students expect to face one of their biggest academic challenges of the year as they head to the National Speech and Debate Tournament this weekend.
On Saturday, the debate team and their coaches will load up plastic boxes full of research and make the eight-hour drive to Indianapolis.
LHS traditionally sends a few students each year to the national tournament. But coach Jeff Plinsky said the number of entries qualifying this year is more than any on record (which goes back to the mid-1980s).
“I am as excited about this group as I have been about any I have ever taken,” Plinsky said. “I’d like to see if we can get to the elimination round.”
For senior Alex Glanzman this will be the second time at nationals. Glanzman will be competing in international extemporaneous speaking and given 30 minutes to prepare an impromptu speech concerning foreign politics.
To prepare, Glanzman has filled five plastic boxes full of articles (arranged by region of the world) that could help him form an argument.
“Last year, nationals was the highlight of my summer, seeing all the different people competing in all the different events,” Glanzman said.
Eddie Loupe, a junior, and Megan Tunget, a senior, will be competing in the Lincoln-Douglas Debate. They will be arguing for and against a government’s obligation to lessen the economic gap between its rich and poor citizens.
For practice, the two have been debating each other, which can have its pitfalls when you have to argue both sides of the issue.
“He used my argument against me,” Tunget said of a recent practice round.
“You should take that as a compliment,” Loupe replied.
Loupe, who was so nervous about making it to nationals that his teammates thought he would pass out, is looking forward to more than just the competition.
“This is the most intelligent, witty group of people I know. And I’m going to be in a van with them for eight hours,” Loupe said.
Lauren Pauls, a junior, qualified for nationals in congressional debate. For the previous three weeks, Pauls has spent about four hours every other day cramming for the competition.
“This was my forensic final,” Pauls said.
The final member of the debate team heading to nationals is J’Qui Audena, a senior who will compete in the original oratory category. He has prepared a speech on the country’s need to take a leap of faith to move the economy forward.
Along with hours of research, the LHS crew had to prepare for the different style of debate they will face at the national level. Unlike much of the country where debaters fly from tournament to tournament and compete in front of professional judges, the competition in Kansas is kept regional and the judges are volunteers.
As the event becomes more competitive at the national tournament, the debaters will be expected to talk faster so they can incorporate more complex ideas into their arguments.
The tournament gives students an opportunity to prove that Kansas can compete on the national level.
“For me, (it’s a chance to change) the idea of what people in the Heartland and fly-over states are like,” Loupe said. “Hopefully we will go there and repeatedly show them we are as clever and worldly as they are.”