Debate finishes historic season under new leadership


Nick Burket

Junior Zach Hill and Alexi Sommerville prepare their arguments before their event at State.

When first-year coach Kelly Thompson took over the Free State Debate team, his goal was to get each debater invested in the demanding process that comes along with debate. He believed that by setting goals early in the season that the team could ultimately break school records.

“It is a lot of work,” Thompson said. “But it is also incredibly rewarding. My favorite part about coaching is helping students reach the goals that they’ve set for themselves.”

Towards the end of the season, the debate team competed in the Debate Coaches Invitational. Juniors Li Gordon-Washington and Max Lillich finished as the 6th place team while Thompson was named the 2017-2018 Kansas Debate Coaches’ Invitational Coach of the Year.

“We read arguments that we felt were true, and we were both confident in our ability to succeed,” Lillich said.

This is my ninth year coaching Debate and it is the first time I have had a squad accomplish this”

— Kelly Thompson

Following that performance, the team felt it was critical to put their finishing touches on an already exceptional season. That time came at the 6A State tournament, which consisted of two different categories of two speaker Debate and four speaker Debate.

Nick Burket
Senior Amanda White researches her topic.





In the four speaker division, Ting Ting Shi, Amanda White, Zach Hill, Alexi Sommerville, Savana Williams and Lexi Whitson finished in second place. In the two speaker division, juniors Li Gordon-Washington and Max Lillich teamed to also finish as 6A State runner-ups.

“When we set our goals in August to have the best season of Debate in Free State history – I never could have dreamed that we’d do so in such resounding fashion,” Thompson said.

Their performance at the State tournament marked the first time in school history the team placed at both tournaments in the same year. They were the only 6A school to do so this season.

“It is a really neat and unique thing to have happen,” Thompson said. “This is my ninth year coaching Debate and it is the first time I have had a squad accomplish this.”

Additionally, the team will be returning 12 of the 14 students that debated at State.

“We’re constantly improving and we’re going to have a really good team next year,” Shi said.