Chesterton Tribune



CHS Speech and Debate team earns top honors at national tournament

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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) National Tournament

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 champion.

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.

The NSDA is the largest academic competition on the planet; individuals must first qualify for the national tournament at a district level (for Chesterton this is the NE Indiana District). When the district level of competition is taken into account, each event generally starts with more than 4,000 competitors. At the national tournament, each event begins with around 300 Š 400 competitors from which the first breaks advance to the Top 60 in the nation in Speech. All Debate entries that accumulate at least an 8 Š 4 record qualify for the debate elimination rounds. From there entries compete in an elimination style tournament where the slightest misstep or the bad luck of having a ‘stacked’ section/draw can eliminate the student from the tournament.

Chesterton broke 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.

After being 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.

Also competing 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 Forum).

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.


Posted 6/20/2016





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