FEATURE: Debate Places at State

Debaters come home taking second and third place at the State Tournament


On Dec. 17, 2022, Free State’s 4-Speaker state debate team won second place, winning 12 out of 16 ballots, losing only to the reigning champions, Washburn Rural. The team consisted of junior Sophie Racy, seniors AJ Persigner, Emma Stanmeyer, Emma Hefty and freshman alternates BReahna Randall and Lena Hasiuk. Racy, who’s been on the debate team sicne freshman year, is especially grateful for the relationships she’s made while a part of the team. “I really enjoyed getting to spend a lot of time with my teammates,” Racy said. “It felt like a great bonding experience that I don’t always get with my team.”

Phoebe Morris

On Jan. 13 and 14, varsity debate students ended the season placing at state. The 4-speaker team placed second with debaters senior AJ Persinger,  senior Emma Hefty, senior Emma Stammeyer, and junior Sophie Racy. The 2-speaker team took third place with junior Connor Brown and senior Cici Hunter.  

At state, six preliminary rounds occur for the two speaker teams, and eight rounds in total occur for the four-speaker teams. For two speaker, once those six rounds end, teams advance to octo finals. The winning team from each room continues to advance, until one team is left standing. 

“The stress of [senior] students going into every round on a Saturday afternoon, knowing it could be their last one creates an emotional roller coaster that is difficult to navigate,” head coach Kelly Thompson said.

While at state, the wide variety of judging pools added to the stressful atmosphere. The 4-speaker team was challenged by adjusting their strategy within a bigger group. 

Throughout rounds, students’ goals were to switch their argumentative approach based on who was judging them. 

“There was a lot more pressure because the way that me and my partner performed would heavily affect the way our other partners did,” Racy said.

For Brown and Hunter, the team had only competed at one other tournament together before state.  It was challenging for the team to alter strategies, having had very different competitive experiences earlier in the season. In preparation for state, the two worked together over winter break.

Although winter break interrupts the preparation time the team has together, the intense workload left most debaters who planned to compete at state dedicating around five hours outside of school per week towards debate work.

Debaters Racy and Brown agreed that support from coach Thompson carried them to state.

“The motivation that we received from our coaches pushes us to not only just be at tournaments, but to commit more time outside of school to practice debate,” Racy said.

In conclusion, this debate season ends with an emotionally rewarding tournament. With the help from their coaches, students brought home another win.