Bishop Seabury Academy debate team places third in state tournament
With three of its four members freshmen, the Bishop Seabury Academy debate team wasn’t expecting to earn many trophies in its first year competing after a two-year hiatus.
In addition, because the school doesn’t currently have a debate class, members had to practice on their own time. It was expected to be what they call a “building year” for the program, said freshman member Hilary Griggs, 15.
“It really wasn’t a big program, so no one really expected very much from us, but I think in the end we really showed that the program has value,” she said.
The Bishop Seabury four-speaker debate team placed third in the state tournament for class 3-2-1A over the weekend. Competing for the team were junior Tristan Rethman and three freshmen who had not debated before: Griggs, Chloe Akers and Hanan Gusau.
This year’s topic was national surveillance, and teams argued whether the United States federal government should “substantially curtail” its domestic surveillance. Two students from the four-member team took the affirmative side while the other two took the negative.
With three freshmen debaters, Griggs said, the team had to start with learning the basics of how to debate before even beginning to study the topic.
“There was only one debater on the team who had actually debated before, so going into the first tournament we really had no idea what it was going to be like,” she said.
The team’s coach, Marshall Schmidt, is a math teacher at the school. Schmidt was coaching debate for the first time with help from parent and assistant coach Pete Akers. Schmidt said it’s rare for schools without a debate class to have a team and the students’ success showed their level of commitment.
“The fact that they were able to rise to that challenge and still continue to stay engaged despite not having that structure there says something about the effort and dedication that they put in,” Schmidt said.
Griggs acknowledged one of the biggest challenges for the team was making time to meet after school amid the other activities — cheerleading, basketball, theater — the members are involved in. Both Griggs and Schmidt said they hope the team’s success this year will help the program to include a class and add members.
“I hope that the program continues to grow,” Schmidt said. “I very much appreciate all the work that my students put in and look forward to seeing how well they do next year.”
Kansas 6A tournament
Lawrence and Free State high schools sent teams to compete in the Kansas 6A state tournament that also took place over the weekend.
Lawrence High’s four-speaker debate team placed sixth. The team consists of senior Stefan Petrovic, junior Bridget Smith and sophomores Claire Walther and Chisato Kimura. Lawrence High debate coach Jeff Plinsky said that with a relatively young team compared to some of the other schools competing in 6A, the team did pretty well.
“You always hope to do better, but finishing sixth with a relative level of inexperience compared to other schools, we felt pretty good with the ultimate outcome,” he said. “Of course there is always room for improvement, and we’ll take strides to do even better next year.”
Free State sent four two-speaker teams to state this year: senior Genevieve Prescher and junior Paige Lawrence; senior Linda Liu and junior Sophia Swanson; senior Nikki Myers and junior Ian Pultz-Earle; and senior Zach Harris and junior Calvin Yost-Wolff.
Three of the teams — Prescher and Lawrence, Liu and Swanson, and Harris and Yost-Wolff — made it to the elimination round, which placed them in the top 16, said Free State debate coach Jason Moore. Moore said the students gained experience that will help them next year.
“All in all, I’m very happy with how my students did,” Moore said. “I think that getting three of our four teams to elimination round is a great accomplishment. With the fact that there will likely be a student from each of those teams that will be back on my squad next year, I look forward to having a similar level of success next year.”