Eleven students compete at state competition; two will go on to nationals

By: Melanie Williamson

VHS teacher Devon Snook was at the School Board Meeting on Monday, March 13, with four of his speech and debate students to talk about their recent success at the state competition. At the state competition, 11 students from Vermilion High School competed against hundreds of other students in multiple categories.

Snook explained that only four of the students were able to attend the school board meeting because most of his students were also involved in the spring musical or working. He took the opportunity to brag about how hard his students work and how dedicated they are to everything that they do, which fortunately includes speech and debate.

Nina LaBlanc, who competed in the Congressional Debate category, explained to the board how there are several rounds they go through when debating, and they have to prepare for each round without knowing if they’ve actually made it to the next round yet. She shared that being part of speech and debate has “taught me a lot about team bonding, and I am very thankful for having such a supportive coach.”

Kylie Gwynn, who competed in Congressional Debate shared that in her competition, the students take on the roles of congressman and participate in one-hour sessions with approximately 20 students per chamber. Each student has to be prepared to debate several issues. She shared that participating in this category has made her more aware of what is going on because the topics they debate are current issues.

Liberty Oliver competed on a team with Nikki Peter in the Public Forum Debate. Oliver is the first freshman since 2008 to qualify for a state tournament.  In their debate category, Oliver explained that the possible topics vary wildly and the teams need to be prepared to argue both sides of the issues. She went on to explain that they compete in multiple rounds with the later rounds being weighted, so the farther a team gets, the harder the competition gets.

In sharing her personal feelings about the competition and the experience, Oliver stated that it “made me a more well-rounded individual.” She went on to explain that having to really research and learn both sides of every argument has allowed her to look at things differently instead of staying closed-minded to one side of an issue.

Oliver’s partner, Nikki Peter also applied to compete in the World Schools Debate. Based on her application, she was chosen to be one of 10 students to attend the national tournament. She explained that this competition involves teams of five students that make a serious of eight-minute speeches and four-minute replies. What makes this category particularly challenging is that the other team can interrupt students during their speeches to ask questions, and those questions have to be answered. It forces students to be highly prepared and able to think on their feet to respond quickly and accurately.

Of the 11competitors that could not attend the board meeting, Jenna Smith, a junior, placed 55th in Declamation; Shane Troyano, a sophomore, placed 49th in Informative and was named Novice State Champion. Senior Violet Piskur, junior Sarah Webb, and junior Julia Bartlome all competed in Program of Oral Interpretation. Piskur ranked 67th, Webb ranked 53rd, and Bartlome ranked 43rd earning her a spot in the national competition to be held this summer.

Senior Matt Gergely, junior Aaron Vojtus, and junior Kylie Gwynn all competed in Congressional Debate. Gergely placed 73rd, Vojtus placed 55th, and Gwynn placed 8th, which is the highest finish ever for a Vermilion student in this category.

The national tournament will be held Sunday, June 18 through Friday, June 23 in Birmingham, Alabama. Julia Bartlome and Nikki Peter will be representing Vermilion at the national tournament. The National Debate & Speech Tournament has been held across the country since 1931, and is the largest academic competition in the world.

Please also read this week’s School Board Briefs to learn about the discussion over whether the district should pay for transportation to the national debate tournament.




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