After slow start, LHS 4-speaker debate team storms back to finish 3rd at state tournament

photo by: Contributed photo

Lawrence High School's 4-speaker debate team celebrates after finishing in third place at the 6A state debate tournament on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021.

Last weekend’s Class 6A state debate tournament might not have started well for Lawrence High School, but the school’s four-speaker team found a way to make sure it ended well, coach Jeff Plinsky said.

After starting the virtual tournament with two wins and four losses during the first round on Friday, the team was sitting near the bottom of the standings. But the debaters did not let a slow start hold them down, and they stormed back on Saturday with a 7-1 record for the day. They finished in third place with a 9-5 overall record, right behind Blue Valley North High School, which also had a 9-5 record but which won 26 ballots from the judges while LHS won 23, according to the Kansas State High School Activities Association. Perennial champion Washburn Rural High School, which finished with a 12-2 record, took first place.

“We felt really good about their fortitude, persistence and willingness to come back and get after it,” Plinsky said of his team’s chances of coming back. “And they did just that.”

Along with the four-speaker team, Plinsky said two of LHS’ two-speaker teams finished in the middle of the standings. Plinsky said that wasn’t a bad finish for those teams, because they consisted of younger students — all sophomores — who would learn from the experience for future tournaments.

All told, Plinsky said he was excited about how well the team performed, especially because of the environment around the tournament, which has been much different because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. He told the Journal-World last week he was proud of the team for how it had handled a virtual debate season that lacked the normal level of team-building and camaraderie.

“I told the kids after the tournament that they managed to do really well at a time there are a million reasons a team can fall apart and fail,” Plinsky said. “These kids kept going because they wanted to be good. When you have that kind of work ethic and drive to excel, good things are going to happen.”

Meanwhile, Free State High School’s four-speaker team finished in fifth place and two of its two-speaker debate teams reached the quarterfinals, coach Kelly Thompson said. Additionally, Free State’s other two-speaker teams reached the round of 16, making Free State the only school to have all of its two-speaker teams make it that far.

Thompson said he felt the team performed well as a whole.

“I could not be more proud of our students for the work that they’ve done to prepare for this tournament and this season,” Thompson said in an email.

Contact Dylan Lysen

Have a story idea, news or information to share? Contact reporter Dylan Lysen:


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.