Free State takes 1st overall in state speech tournament; Lawrence High finishes 4th

photo by: Kelly Thompson/Contributed Photo

Free State High School took first overall at the Kansas Speech and Drama State Championship on May 4, 2019. Several of the students who participated are pictured in this contributed photo.

The Free State Firebirds are state champions in speech and forensics — for the first time in the school’s history, according to the team’s coach.

Lawrence High School came in fourth place overall at the state championship.

Free State coach Kelly Thompson told the Journal-World via email that teams are allowed to enter up to 16 qualified entries. Ten of the Firebirds’ entries made it to the final round, meaning they placed in the top six, he said.

Lawrence High coach Jeff Plinsky told the Lawrence school board at its Monday meeting that the program has records from about 1987 on. In the time since, LHS has had, at most, five entries qualify for the national tournament, he said; this year, 18 have qualified.

Plinsky also tweeted that a school record number of female students and students of color qualified for nationals this year. He also tweeted that 11 of the Lions’ 16 state qualifying students will return next year.

In addition to the National Speech & Debate Tournament, to be held June 16-21 in Dallas, LHS qualified students for the National Catholic Forensics League’s Grand National Tournament, which will be May 25-26 in Milwaukee.

Free State qualified 11 events for the National Speech & Debate Tournament. The Firebirds also qualified in 13 events in the National Individual Events Tournament of Champions, or NIETOC, which was held May 10-12 in Omaha, Neb.

“This is the most in school history and, as best I can deduce, is the most that a Kansas school has ever qualified,” Thompson said via email. At NIETOC, junior Ian Haas placed 34th in Informative Speaking and senior Spencer Yost-Wolff placed 35th in Original Oratory, Thompson said.

LHS is raising funds through the Lawrence Schools Foundation to get to nationals. That fundraiser is available online by visiting, clicking “Donate” in the upper right corner and selecting “LHS Debate” as the designation.

Below are the students from each school who placed in the top six in their events at the Class 6A Kansas state championship, which was held May 4 at Olathe East High School. An asterisk (*) indicates that the student has taken first place in a state speech championship event at least once before.

Free State High School:

• Spencer Yost-Wolff, senior: first place, International Extemporaneous Speaking; second place, Original Oration

• Sivani Badrivenkata, junior*: first place, Informative Speaking

• Alina Matejkowski, junior*: first place, Oral Interpretation of Poetry; second place, Program of Oral Interpretation

• Jack Benkelman, junior: second place, Informative Speaking

• Emily Bial, sophomore: second place, Oral Interpretation of Prose

• Ian Haas, junior: fourth place, Informative Speaking

• Hugh Sidabutar, junior: fourth place, Solo Humorous Interpretation

• John Marshall, freshman: fourth place (four-way tie), Lincoln-Douglas Debate

• Savana Williams, sophomore: fourth place (four-way tie), Lincoln-Douglas Debate

• Emily Bial and Lindsey Hefty, sophomores: sixth place, Duo Interpretation

Other participants at state: Senior Zach Hill; junior Grace Mechler; sophomores Timothy Huffman and Drew Raney; freshman Molly Roecker

Lawrence High School:

• Jared Coté, senior*: first place, Solo Dramatic Interpretation

• Vera Petrovic, senior: first place, Impromptu Speech

• Jasper Mumford, sophomore: sixth place, Program of Oral Interpretation

• Lex Moulton and Jared Coté, seniors: second place, Duo Interpretation

• Ellie Bates and Jasper Mumford, sophomores: third place, Duo Interpretation

Other participants at state: Seniors Aurelia Balcazar, Violet Belt and Haylee Rose; juniors Samantha Turner and Amelia Vasquez; sophomores Claire Howard, Rachel Krambeer, Jack Malin and Evelyn Serbet; freshmen Gretchen Bannwarth, Fiona Graves, Jenna Riggins and Helen Viloria

Other area schools’ results

Class 4A

Baldwin High School:

• Ella Mozier, fourth place, Informative Speech

• Jairub Constable, sixth place, Informative Speech

• Maiya Evans, fourth place, Serious Solo Acting

Ottawa High School:

• Caroline Webber, second place, Impromptu Speech

Tonganoxie High School:

• Emilie Crowley, fifth place, Oral Interpretation of Poetry

• Casey Snyder, sixth place, Oral Interpretation of Poetry

Class 2A

Bishop Seabury Academy

• Hilary Griggs, second place, Extemporaneous Speech

• Audrey Nguyen-Hoang, fifth place, Extemporaneous Speech

Contact Mackenzie Clark

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