Debaters set record at state tournament
Tonganoxie High School debaters have been setting trophies on school shelves for eight years.
Now they're setting records state records.
This past weekend at the Kansas 4A state debate competition, Tonganoxie became the first school in Kansas to bring home first-place trophies in both two-speaker debate and four-speaker debate.
Debate coach Steve Harrell termed the feat "remarkable."
"No school from any classification has ever won both of those in the same year," he said.
In two-speaker debate, sixth-seeded Marissa Stephenson and Luke Manson won the quarter final against Haven High School, then went on to win over Coffeyville and won the final against Caney Valley. The duo finished the tournament with a 7-2 record and took first place.
Next, in the four-speaker debate competition with Amelia Earhart and Andrew Becker on the affirmative side and Kyle Rodell and Darren Welch on the negative side, this team, too, achieved a first-place win. Paul Reetz and Megan Needham served as alternates.
Harrell said the performance was consistent.
"Kyle and Darren were undefeated 7-0 for the tournament," Harrell said. "They were one of the best negative teams in any classification at state this year."
The affirmative team of Earhart and Becker finished 4-3, making a team total of 11-3 overall.
Of the four-speaker, all except Becker, had been on the state four-speaker team a year ago.
"They suffered a really close defeat at state last year," Harrell said. "So this year they went focused on winning."
Harrell added that Welch, a senior, who has participated in state debate tournaments for three years, has only lost three rounds at state. Kyle Rodell is a senior, too.
"And he (Welch) and Kyle have lost only one round at state in two years, so they're pretty remarkable guys," Harrell said.
Others who participated in two-speaker debate at the Shawnee Heights 4A state tournament included eighth-seeded Kelly Woelk and Caleb Poterbin, both sophomores. This young team lost to first seed team Clay Center.
"It was a really close debate," Harrell said. "The boys just needed a little more experience and they've got that, so I think that next year maybe good things will happen, too."
Also in two-person debate, Sarah Melchior and Melissa High would up 3-3.
Seniors Erin Jones and Ronnie Crook finished 11 and nearly made it to the medal round, Harrell said.
Saturday's wins were noteworthy.
"Our Friday night wasn't that wonderful," Harrell said of the night's 10 wins and 8 losses.
"But Saturday was remarkable," he added. "We really rallied and we debated about 80 percent win-loss (20-4) on Saturday, which makes a big difference."
Each year, the teams improve, Harrell said.
"Every year we hope we can do just as well as we did the year before, and then the kids figure out a way to do it even better," Harrell said. "It's remarkable."