Chesterton Tribune



CHS returns from Speech and Debate Nationals with one top 60 finish

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Chesterton High School’s speech and debate team spent the last week competing against the nation’s best at the world’s largest academic competition. The tournament had contestants from all 50 states and three other nations, including Vietnam and Taiwan. The National Speech and Debate tournament’s second leg featured 1,351 schools and 6,357 individual entries. The first leg, a district qualification series pushes the number of competitors into the tens of thousands. Chesterton qualified fourteen students (ten entries when you factor in partnerships) for this year’s tournament in Dallas.

Max Winksi and Indy Loving, competing in Duo Interpretation, qualified for the elimination portion of the tournament with a team low cut score of 33. For the speech portion of the tournament, students compete in six preliminary rounds with two judges a piece. Each judge, typically a former competitor or coach, ranks each performer in the round from 1-6 with 1 being the best. The students’ scores across all twelve judges are added up for the cut score. Qualifying for that portion of the tournament placed Max and Indy in the top 60 for the tournament. Their seventh and eighth round performances missed the qualifying score by the narrowest of margins, however, and they failed to advance to the round of thirty. Winski and Loving are coached by Eric Schaefer, a CHS alumni and Art teacher at the Gary Lighthouse Charter School.

Other competitors in speech narrowly missed the breaks. AJ Stirling, a two-time state champion in the event of Program of Oral Interpretation missed the cut by a measly one point. Schaefer explained that that one point could be a number of factors, some of which are not in the students’ control saying that “kids could be overtime because of an audience reaction, the competition in that round could be really difficult due to the random pairings, or a piece might not work as well with judges from different walks of life.” Lily Roberts, a sophomore, got her first chance to compete on the national stage with performances in Dramatic Interpretation and a secondary supplemental event titled Prose. For supplemental events, students in the bottom half of the round are eliminated each round. Meaning that an event might have 1,000 students to being are down to 500 by round two. Roberts made it through three cuts in prose to finish in the top half for the tournament. Anekah Fish (Informative Speaking), Rebecca Mueller (Original Oratory), and Anna Sanders (Original Oratory) were also nationals first timers. Fish and Mueller also competed for three rounds of Prose interpretation and showing the team nature of the Chesterton program Fish spent her fourth day in a row at the competition site prepping two of her debate teammates for the speech event of Storytelling.

Like the speech competitors, all of the debaters on the team were competitive. Congressional debate is scored very similarly to speech events, while the other debate events all feature six randomly paired preliminary rounds with two judges per round. Only the win or loss is scored for the competition by the judges. Sid Augustyn, Chesterton’s lone Congressional debater came in eighth place for his preliminary chamber, a chamber that featured three members from last years final round. Students needed to finish sixth or better to advance to the quarterfinals. Public Forum teammates Azeez Lakhani and Sofia Winski received six of the eight ballots needed to break and the team of Emily Krgyoski and Grace Whah achieved five ballots while facing several teams that were able to make the breaks. In Policy debate, Madison Simms and Gianna Galante were also able to earn five of the eight ballots needed for elimination rounds. Simms and Galante each worked diligently to compete in the consolidation event of Storytelling.

Director of Speech and Debate, Chris Lowery said that despite the lack of awards this year’s nationals was a success. “We only had one senior on this team, Lakhani, and after being eliminated our kids watched nearly every round that they could. I believe that the things that they learned are going to really stick and make the team even more competitive next year.” Lowery and coach Joshua Coots were honored at this year’s ‘coaches diamond ceremony.’ As students compete, they earn NSDA points and coaches receive one tenth of their students’ points. Lowery was given his third diamond award, meaning that he has amassed over 6,000 coaching points and has coached for at least fifteen years. Coots achieved his first diamond award amassing over 1,500 points and coaching for at least five years. CHS English teachers Dakota McCoy and Jacob Lukach attended as coaches along with Schaefer and the team was joined by alumni Katelyn Balakir as a judge.

This competition marks the end of the 2018-2019 season for the team and a new season begins with its first competition in September. The debate team finished the year as state runners-up by half a point and the speech team came in second place in the AAA division of speech. With a smaller than normal graduating class departing, the team has high expectations for next year, but for now plan to enjoy a month off before coaching at summer camps begins the 2019-2020 season.




Posted 6/24/2019




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