Debate teams from both high schools in Lawrence are competing for the Class 6A state championship this weekend in Hutchinson where top-performing debaters from throughout Kansas are squaring off at the state tournament.
Free State High School is sending one team in the four-speaker division as well as four teams in the traditional two-speaker competition.
Meanwhile, Lawrence High School is sending four teams in the two-speaker division.
Jo Ball, coach of the Free State squad, spent much of Thursday getting her teams ready for the preliminary rounds that started Friday afternoon and was unavailable for comment.
But Lawrence High coach Jeff Plinsky gave his cross-town rivals credit for having a successful season last fall.
“She’s having quite a year,” Plinsky said about Ball’s squad. “She’s the real story this year.”
“Our squad right now is really young and energetic, and I like them a lot,” Plinsky said of the LHS debaters. “We’re having some growing pains and we’ve got some growing to do, but here at the end of the season we had some young kids who showed up and competed hard.”
Last year, Free State placed second in the four-speaker division behind the state champions from Shawnee Mission West. In that division, squads are divided into two pairs: one that argues the affirmative side in every round and another that always argues the negative side. Those squads may also include up to two alternate speakers.
Four-speaker teams qualify to the state tournament by placing high in their respective regional tournaments, which were held in December. Free State’s four-speaker team includes Adam Strathman (sophomore); Logan Brown (junior); Hannah Moran (junior); Alex Houston (junior); Parker Hopkins (sophomore); and Isaac March (sophomore).
Two-speaker teams qualify for the state tournament by competing in at least four regular-season invitational tournaments in Kansas and winning at least 50 percent of their rounds. In that division, each team argues both the affirmative and negative sides in alternating rounds. Free State’s two-speaker teams are:
• Katie Conard (senior) and Adam Fales (senior).
• John McCain (senior) and Josie Naron (junior).
• Kalex Holm (senior) and Tucker Prescher (senior).
• Abby Schletzbaum (senior) and Andrew Pester (senior).
The four two-speaker teams from Lawrence High are:
• Eddie Loupe (senior), who also competed in the 2012 state tournament, and Lauren Pauls (senior).
• Hayley Luna (sophomore) and Ellie Dunlap (sophomore).
• Hannah Lee (sophomore) and Mona Ahmed (sophomore).
• Jacob DiVilbiss (sophomore) and Kelli Sturm (sophomore).
The resolution being debated this year is “Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its transportation infrastructure investment in the United States.”
Resolutions are set each year by the National Forensics League, the governing body for high school debate competition in U.S. public schools.
In addition to the tournament this weekend, a separate tournament was held for novice debate teams last weekend at Wichita East High School. The novice tournament is divided into two divisions: one for freshmen only, and an open division for teams in which at least one debater is a sophomore or older.
Two teams from Free State advanced to the elimination rounds in the open division. Sophomores Zach Hayes and Sarah Lieberman finished in fourth place, while freshman Becca Moran and sophomore Wynne Feddema took fifth place.
Feddema also placed seventh individually in the Top Speaker awards. Moran took the 10th place Top Speaker award.
Freshmen Samantha Farb and Linda Liu advanced and placed fourth in the ninth-grade division.
From Lawrence High School, the team of Morgan Ross (sophomore) and Josie Spencer-Speirer (freshman) advanced to the octafinal round and finished in 10th place.
Freshman Stefan Petrovic took the fifth-place Top Speaker award, and freshman Kaitlyn Preut took the ninth-place Top Speaker award.