Lawrence high schools competing in virtual state debate tournaments this weekend

photo by: Dylan Lysen/Lawrence Jounral-World

Members of Free State High School's debate team meet during the general assembly for the 6A state debate tournament on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. Free State's and Lawrence High School's debate teams qualified for the state tournament, which is being conducted virtually because of the pandemic.

Several Lawrence students are making their arguments this weekend that they deserve to be recognized as the best debaters in the state.

Debate teams from both Lawrence High School and Free State High School are competing in the 6A state tournament Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Both schools sent a full slate of teams — one team each to compete in the four-speaker tournament and four teams each to compete in the two-speaker tournament. LHS coach Jeff Plinsky and Free State coach Kelly Thompson both expressed confidence in their teams’ abilities.

“I feel good about our students and the work that they’ve done,” Plinsky said. “This is as strong a group of debaters I’ve coached, maybe ever. … I’m as hopeful going into this as I’ve ever been.”

The teams qualified for state by placing in the top four places at their regional tournament last month. According to the Kansas State High School Activities Association, both competed at the Lansing regional, with LHS finishing in second place and Free State finishing in third place.

They both finished behind Topeka’s Washburn Rural High School, which is the four-time defending state champion in the four-speaker competition. Thompson said Washburn Rural would again be a tough challenge at state, but he thinks the team can compete.

“We like to think we’ll be in competition for one of the top three places,” Thompson said. “That will be our goal.”

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, the tournament will be conducted virtually, which is how the teams have competed this entire season. Despite the change in procedure, both coaches said they thought their teams handled the situation well.

However, Plinsky said there was more to debate than just competing. He said the virtual element decreased the ability of the students to build camaraderie. While the younger students competing this year will be seasoned debaters next season, they too will be new to the team-building aspect, he said.

“The kids I feel for really are the kids who are in their first year,” Plinsky said. “All of that team building, coming together and fellowship — that part is missing this year. It’s going to be interesting to see what that looks like next year.”

Along with the Lawrence schools, Bishop Seabury Academy will also be competing for a state debate title at the 3-2-1A level. The team qualified for state by placing fourth at its regional tournament last month.

Students participating in the tournament include:

LHS: Cuyler Dunn, Aidan Zimney, Jake Shew, Helen Viloria, Joel Rose, Jenna Riggins, Perrin Goulter, Thomas Lushington, Rachel Krambeer, Caitlin Sand, Clara Bode, Frances Parker, Eliott Manning, Bradley Schrock

Free State: Ethan Harris, Aiden Basore, Jacob Wilkus, Simon Ruland, John Marshall, Serena Rupp, Abbey Hossler, Aaron Persinger, Audri Gutierrez, Kady Bischmann, Emma Stammeyer, Jake Chun

Bishop Seabury: Ryan Dekat, Henry Horan, Lyle Griggs, Darby Harris, Martin Hill, Sam Jackson, Audrey Nguyen-Hoang, Morgan Orozco, Evan Ho, Matthew Petillo, Hayden Slough, Brooke Spurlock, Spencer Timkar


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