Debate Progresses to State


©The Talon News | Lauren Metcalf

As state approaches, congress team members, junior Joe Thompson, senior Morgan Stone, and junior Savanna Lessley write speeches and research to prepare. (Lauren Metcalf / The Talon News)

Sarah Crowder, Reporter

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the fear of public speaking affects 73 percent of the population, making it one of the most common phobias. The students on the debate team face this fear almost daily as they debate their way to success. 

Two members of the debate team, junior Savanna Lessley and senior Morgan Stone, made it to the state competition for congressional debate on Jan. 8th and 9th.

“Watching [Lessley and Stone] debate is one of my favorite things to do,” debate coach and theatre teacher Jessica Reynolds said. “They don’t let me watch them debate often cause they don’t like me in their room, but they are some of the most intelligent speechwriters I’ve ever worked with. They work extremely hard and I’m like a soccer mom. I always want them to do really well and I’m always cheering for them and I’m very competitive. It’s a joy to watch them debate and I really love working with them.”

Lessley advanced immediately after regionals and Stone was able to compete as first alternate.

“I was ecstatic that both of them got to compete,” Reynolds said. “Since Morgan was the alternate, we weren’t sure if she was going to and I was really hoping she would cause she’s the senior and that would just be an awesome experience. It was just super exciting to have two students advance because last year I had one, which was cool, but more is always better.”

This was Stone and Lessley’s first time competing at the state level for debate.

“It’s taught me a lot just because I’ve never competed in state before for debate but I’ve been in debate for three years now so actually being able to get something out of all the work I’ve put into it was really nice,” Stone said.

Besides preparing herself for state and competing, Stone has also been instrumental in helping the rest of the team succeed.

“Morgan’s a senior this year and she’s my debate president,” Reynolds said. “She’s just put in a lot of hours, working with the team especially. She really just takes it upon herself to mentor the new debate members, which I really appreciate because coaching debate is an interesting thing, especially for me because I’ve never been a debater myself so sometimes I don’t really know the best way to tell them how to do things. Morgan really helps all of them by filling in those holes and I’m so appreciative to her. “

Lessley and Stone received 10th and 11th in their preliminary rooms respectively and did not continue to finals.

©The Talon News | Campbell Wilmot
Junior Savanna Lessley and Senior Morgan Stone competed at the State Congressional Debate Competition on Jan. 8 and 9. (Campbell Wilmot / The Talon News)

“I was proud of the kids because I thought they debated well and did the best they could,” Reynolds said. “I was disappointed we didn’t break to finals, I’d really have liked to have gotten to that final round but I’m really proud of how they did. Savannah is a junior and she learned a lot this year and I know that next year she’s going to come out swinging and hopefully we can make it further.”

In congressional debate, students have a mock legislative assembly where they debate various bills and resolutions.

“I had to write a lot of speeches,” Lessley said. “And do a lot of research in depth to understand the topics that I was talking about because we are pretty much interrogated on the spot and we have to know answers to things.”

To prepare for state, the team members debate different bills and have mock sessions of Congress during meglalunch and class with the students on the Congress team who didn’t qualify helping write extra speeches.

“It [being at state] was interesting,” Lessley said. “It was pretty much a whole new realm and a lot different from region. Seeing people perform on a lot more competitive levels was definitely a learning experience.”

Those who compete at the state level for debate put hours upon hours into preparing, with the team writing ten speeches in the five days leading up to state to get ready.

“It was very stressful,” Stone said. “Everyone there, especially for Congress, is very intimidating and they like to form these little groups where they team up against you which is tough to deal with.”

Debate teaches students to think critically and articulate their thoughts clearly, preparing many for a future in law.

“I started debate because I had a really bad foot injury so I couldn’t play volleyball,” Stone said. “My parents pushed me to do something more academic so I started it and I continued to do it because I really liked the aspect of doing all the research and going and actually arguing over it and being able to prove all the points. It’s really interesting to me.”

Debate also allows students to enter the political arena early on.

“In 8th grade we started this debate club with Ms. Collins,” Lessely said. “It really got me interested in learning about the political atmosphere of our country and that brought me into debate my freshman year. A lot of this nation is unaware and they just don’t know what is currently going on and it’s important to understand with how many things are happening.”

The team has hopes to continue to grow and have success in LD (Lincoln-Douglas), Extemp, and CX debate.

“I would really like to see us grow,” Reynolds said. “We’re kind of a small debate team, it’d be nice if we got more members. I would really like to start taking all the qualifying spots. There are 3 qualifying spots in each section of debate we do and I’d really like to take them all.”