Chesterton Tribune



CHS Speech and Debate places 9 students at Nationals

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The Chesterton High School Speech and Debate team returned from a week-long competition in Fort Lauderdale for the National Speech and Debate Association’s National Tournament. When you include the fact that students had to qualify at a district level, this tournament is the largest academic competition in the world. 1,298 schools competed at the final stage of this year’s tournament. A number of CHS performers leave the tournament able to boast about being in the top 60 in the nation.

The week began with students competing in their main events. Four entries from CHS qualified for the out-round elimination portion of the tournament. The team’s first Octafinalist (finishing between 31-60) was A.J. Stirling, who competed in the event of Program of Oral Interpretation (POI), an event where students combine works of Prose, Poetry, and Drama into an original program. Stirling’s piece “22” discusses the issues that soldiers returning home from the front deal with. Also finishing in Octafinals were the Duo Interpretation team comprised of Max Winksi and Indy Loving for their humorous selection about how to survive a horror movie. Taking Seth Grahame-Smith’s book of the same title, Winski and Loving, cut the 200-page book down into a 10-minute performance involving dozens of characters that they then portray. Judges score students against five other entries and then the entries with the best ranks advance in Speech.

In Policy Debate, the team of Benjamin Hoham and Matthew Jewison qualified for the elimination portion of the tournament. Debate breaks are determined by the number of ballots won during the preliminary rounds. Teams need to accumulate a record of at least 8-4 in the preliminary rounds. Hoham and Jewison did that despite running into multiple teams that broke including the Catholic National Tournament Runners-up. Debating a broad topic of ‘education regulations,’ they upheld a case that encouraged schools bringing in more international students on visa programs. 69 total teams qualified for the elimination rounds and Chesterton dropped in round 8. Only 50 teams were able to advance to round 9. Paul Petro advanced to the Semifinals in the Congressional Debate House of Representatives. Starting with 252 contestants, students compete in chambers of 18 for the right to advance by debating dozens of different legislative issues. 70 students, including Petro, advanced to semis, with the top 24 advancing to finals.

Chesterton’s Director of Speech and Debate Chris Lowery was encouraged by what he saw out of the members of the team that broke saying, “We saw that the hard work during the regular season really pays off. Stirling, Petro, and the team of Hoham/Jewison were all state champions in the event that they competed in and Winski/Loving were state runners-up.” Lowery also likes where the team is headed, “Paul and Matt are both seniors, but the other four individuals that competed in this year’s elimination rounds just finished their sophomore year and are raising the expectations for what is possible as they become upper-classmen next year.”

Chesterton was also honored at two separate award ceremonies. Students Hannah Geiss and Connor Wantuch were both honored for having qualified for the National Tournament for four years in a row. Geiss competed in Lincoln-Douglas for a second consecutive year and has previously competed in both Congressional Debate and International Extemp. Wantuch was a contestant in Original Oratory and had previously competed in International Extemp. Sixty-eight students out of the over 10,000 individuals that competed at this year’s nationals managed to achieve this honor. Chesterton also had a coach honored this year. Eric Schaefer, an alumni of the program and currently an Art Teacher at a Gary Charter School, was awarded his first Diamond award. Students receive National Forensic League points for their individual accomplishments. Coaches receive 1/10th of the points that their students achieve. Diamonds are awarded based upon point accumulation and coaching longevity (they are given out by five year increments). Schaefer’s students have amassed 17,660 points, an impressive feat considering that the most a student can receive in an individual round is 6.

Some students volunteer to extend their week to compete in Supplemental and Consolation events after they are eliminated from their main event. These second events tend to have many more entries to begin the competition and are cutthroat in how quickly they eliminate students. Sanjana Raj chose to take on the challenge of Extemporaneous Debate. Students have 30 minutes to work on a topic and debate one-on-one for 20 minutes in front of a judge. A total of 777 students began the competition and Raj made it to the eighth round -- putting her somewhere between 34th and 50th for the tournament. Katelyn Balakir competed in Impromptu, an event that began with over 600 contestants. Balakir won her first two rounds and narrowly missed the cut to make it to round 4, placing her somewhere between 35th and 70th for the competition. Josh Hogan competed in Storytelling, an event that began with 263 contestants. Hogan was able to advance to round three, which put him somewhere between 19th and 44th in the nation.

End of an era

This week marked not only the end of the season, but the end of an era. The tournament signified the retirement of Robert Kelly, the longtime National Hall of Fame speech coach, who oversaw the program through six team National Championships, three Bruno E. Jacob awards, and coach of three individual National Champions. It also saw the coaching departures of CHS English teacher Rebecca Uehling, as well as community coach Kayla Fleming. Fleming is moving out west and Uehling is leaving in order to concentrate fully on her work as the Coordinator of the International Baccalaureate Program at CHS. “All three coaches left a tremendous imprint on our program and will be incredibly difficult to replace,” said Lowery. “Each of them had their unique coaching niches and all were instrumental in both individual state championship performance as well as team titles.”


Posted 6/25/2018





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