THS debaters top another successful year at nationals
Zack Pistora and Garrett Kelly nearly had to pinch themselves recently at the National Catholic Forensics League tournament in Chicago.
On a large board, standings displayed that the Tonganoxie team was one of the last squads remaining in the policy debate category.
Pistora and Kelly eventually placed ninth at the event, marking the highest finish for Tonganoxie High in that category at nationals.
"Garrett and I didn't really have too high of hopes coming in because we hadn't been practicing too hard because of summer break and all that stuff," said Pistora, who, like Kelly graduated in May from THS. "You hope to have success, but we weren't expecting that."
For Kelly, the performance put the finishing touches on "a great time."
"I'll say lucky that we did so well," Kelly said. "Everything was just clicking and it was just somewhat of a feeling of euphoria being in Chicago. I love Chicago and I love the food there."
According to THS instructor Steve Harrell, Kelly and Pistora finished tied for ninth out of 250 teams.
Coincidentally, their two losses at nationals were to a Kansas squad and a Kansas City, Mo., school. Pistora and Kelly lost to a team from Buhler and another from Kansas City Central.
In the last two years, Buhler and Tonganoxie have met often on the state level, and Buhler has been victorious each time.
Buhler topped THS for first place in state speech competition in the spring. And, BHS also ended Tonganoxie's long reign at state in Class 4A four-person debate. Buhler also defeated THS in girls state basketball in 2005.
As for Kansas City Central, the squad presented its information uniquely by using rap and hip-hop to convey its message.
This year's topic dealt with civil liberties, specifically searches without probable cause and detention without charge. Kelly and Pistora proposed that immigrants coming into the U.S. not be denied legal residence solely based on whether they are HIV-positive.
Pistora said he and Kelly borrowed the case idea from Tyler Treusdell and Ben Jefferies, who also competed at nationals.
Joining those four seniors in Chicago were Paula Prosser, Rachel Bouza and Matthew Williams.
Jefferies participated in the extemporaneous category, while Williams competed in oration.
Prosser and Bouza competed in the duo event, while Truesdell participated in the Lincoln-Douglas debate, in which two people debated against each other.
Of those students, Harrell said Williams, along with Prosser and Bouza, had the top finishes. Harrell estimated that Williams finished in the top 75, while Prosser and Bouza were in the top 100 in their event.
"I think it's a nice ending," Harrell said. "We had primarily seniors, primarily other than Matt Williams.
"It's a nice goal. It's a nice ending for the seniors, definitely. For the underclassmen it's a nice goal for them to shoot for."
Williams was the only THS student in Chicago who didn't graduate in May, and he will be a junior in the fall.
"It's kind of an end of an era for some of the kids," Harrell said about the graduating seniors. "We've logged a lot of miles."
Being a national event, Harrell said competition definitely was tough.
"Almost everyone at that national tournament was state caliber in their own right," Harrell said. "It's the best of the best when it comes to competing.
"At our own state tournament, you have good teams, but you also have teams that are young or just getting to that level. At nationals everyone is good in their own right, whether it be Florida or New York or the Chicago area."
While in Chicago, the team members visited Millennium Park, Navy Pier, the Chicago Art Institute and the Museum of Science and Industry.
The group traveled by train for the eight-hour trip to the Windy City.
"We took the trains up, traveling Amtrak, which is always interesting," Kelly said.