A week after the
school year ended the Chesterton High School Speech and Debate team traveled
to Salt Lake City for the National Speech and Debate Association’s (NSDA)
They left Salt Lake
City with a lot more luggage than they arrived with. The team earned a
‘School of Outstanding Distinction’ award for their performance. This award
signifies that the team was one of the top ten teams in the nation. In 1995,
the NSDA ended the practice of naming an “individual” school tournament
After nearly ten
years of schools clamoring for a return of the past practice, the NSDA
introduced a ‘tier’ system that includes ‘Schools of Honor,’ ‘Schools of
Excellence,’ and ‘Schools of Outstanding Distinction.’ This change is one of
the reasons that Chesterton has appeared to remain ‘stuck’ on its five
National Championships during the late 1980s to early 1990s. Although
Chesterton has twice won a School of Excellence since the change in formula,
this is the team’s first ‘School of Outstanding Distinction’ award.
The other teams
that received the honor were Apple Valley (MN), Archbishop Mitty (CA), Eagan
(MN), Millard North (NE), Ridge (NJ), Saint Mary’s Hall (TX), San Marino
(CA), Syosset (NY), and Trinity Prep (FL).
In order to ‘score’
points for the team, individuals must ‘break’ out of the preliminary rounds
in their main events. In addition, a School of Outstanding Distinction must
break into the elimination bracket in both Speech and Debate.
‘stacked’ section/draw can eliminate the student from
seven Speech entries to the top 60 stage. CHS’s Speech qualifiers and their
events were Ayesha Khan (Oratory), Natalie Beglin (Oratory), Lexi Justak
(Humor), Sam Lee (Drama), James Van Drie (Drama), Noelle Friel (Program of
Oral Interpretation), as well as the team of Emily Coleman & Josh Hogan
(Duo). Although only Justak was able to break to the Top thirty in the
nation, the shear number of individuals that advanced put Chesterton into
the conversation for top team in the tournament right away. Van Drie was
only one spot away from joining Justak in the top thirty. Three entries
advanced on the debate side of the tournament. The two-man teams of Nathan
Poczekay and Fred Owens as well as Tim Vincent and Joel Peterson advanced in
Policy debate; Hayden Hodge and Mark Wilcox advanced in Public Forum debate.
Vincent and Peterson won multiple elimination rounds to survive until round
10 (final round is round 15) while the other teams bowed out after round 8.
eliminated from their main events, a number of CHS students volunteered to
take on a secondary event, called a supplemental or consolidation event.
Some of the notable performances for the team were Ayesha Khan (top 18 in
Prose Speaking), Natalie Beglin (top 40 in Prose Speaking), Sam Lee (top 40
in Storytelling), and Izzy Portugal who placed somewhere between seventh and
ninth in Storytelling (the top six perform in final round). That makes
Portugal the highest individual advancing student for this year’s team.
The team is coached
by Josh Coots, Kayla Fleming, Robert Kelly, Chris Lowery, Dakota McCoy,
Layla Mooradian, Kirsten Reed, Eric Shaefer, Rebecca Uehling. Director of
the program, Chris Lowery, believes that the key to success that Chesterton
has had over the course of the 49 years of the program that local attorney
Michael Harris helped to start in 1967, “is the direct support of the
community and the Duneland School Corporation. The school support travels
down all the way from Duneland’s Superintendent Dr. David Pruis, the School
Board, and CHS’s principal Jeff Van Drie.” The Speech and Debate team
generates the largest portion of its regular season funding directly from
the community and this support according to Lowery is the main driver of the
team maintaining a stance that any Duneland student, no matter their
socio-economic status or academic standing, is able to join the team. Lowery
explains, “We believe that our mission is to take on all students who want
the academic benefits as well as the challenge of eventually not only making
it onto the national stage, but to perform at the highest level once there.”
This year’s team of twenty-six students was the largest that Chesterton has
ever taken to the National Tournament.
during the week were Katrina Balon (Lincoln-Douglas), Karly Carden (Duo),
Megan Daye (Congress), Quinlan Doolin (Lincoln-Douglas), Creighton Gaff (Extemp),
Hannah Geiss (Extemp), Sam Gordon (Duo), Paul Petro (Congress), Nate
Scheerer (Public Forum), Connor Wantuch (Extemp), and Eli Winski (Public
Next year the team
hopes to build upon the success of this season which includes a State
Championship in Debate, third place in Indiana for Speech, and top ten in
the nation for the combined activities. To do so the team will have to
replace a talented batch of eight seniors who move on to University studies
next year around the country.
Seniors on the
national team include Sam Gordon, Lexi Justak, Ayesha Khan, Sam Lee, Fred
Owens, Joel Peterson, Nathan Poczekay, and Tim Vincent.