Lawrence and Free State High Schools are sending their best varsity debate teams to Johnson County this weekend to compete in the 6A state championship tournament, being held at Blue Valley High School.
Both schools have had surprising success this year — Lawrence because of its relatively young squad, and Free State after dealing with coaching changes early in the season.
Debaters qualify for the two-speaker division by placing high in various invitational tournaments during the season. Four-speaker teams qualify by competing at regional tournaments held in December.
Both schools have qualified multiple two-speaker teams this year. And Lawrence High qualified a four-speaker team after finishing second at the regional tournament in Topeka.
Going into the tournament, Shawnee Mission East is considered the odds-on favorite. They are the defending state champions in the four-speaker division. Blue Valley West won last year's two-speaker division, but SME had three of the four fourth-place finishers.
The Lancers also had three of the final four teams in this year's national-qualifying tournament in December. Free State's team of Alex Houston and Hannah Moran lasted six rounds in that tournament, barely missing a nationals slot.
This year's tournament begins at 1:45 p.m. Friday and continues through Saturday. Awards in the four-speaker division are expected to be announced around 4:30 p.m. Saturday. The final round in the two-speaker division is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.