For 15-year-old Ali Cronin, qualifying for the Speech and Debate National Tournament June 17-21 is bittersweet.
Her father, Marty Cronin, coached the team for 14 years before he died of brain cancer in 2005.
“My father used to be the coach here, but he passed away when I was in first grade. My mom and dad met through debate,” the freshman debater said. “It means a lot. My mom is going and my brother is going. It’s a big family event.”
Ali will be competing in Duo Interpretation, where she and a partner act out a 10-minute skit with no costumes, touching or eye contact.
“I excel more in speech than debate events,” Ali said. “It’s a lot of pantomiming and inflection in voice.”
This will be the first freshman team from Douglas in 10 years to make it to the national level.
“We have a senior-free team going which is awesome because none of them will be graduating this year, so we have another year of them competing,” Assistant Coach Kat Lambrecht said. “Also, they represent the best from our whole district. The fact that they are so young is awesome.”
Freshman Johnny Jacoboni, 14, is Ali’s partner.
They are performing a skit about going on terrible dates called “Check, please” by Jonathan Rand.
“I like that I get to be in a partnership with somebody that I can coordinate, communicate and perform well with,” Johnny said. “It’s going to be an amazing experience especially since it will be my first time on a plane. It’s going to be an experience to remember.”
Junior Michelle Schilling is hoping to use her oratory skills to share her passion of space exploration.
“I chose oratory because I like to speak in front of people, and I chose the subject of space exploration because I want to pursue it in life,” the 17-year-old said. “Something that made me try so hard to get to nationals is that I wanted to share my passion with other people.”
Tim Hanifan, 17, is competing in Domestic Extemporaneous, where he must give a speech on a domestic current event or issue.
“We find out (the topic) a half hour before we give the speech. You prepare for any topic you might get,” he said. “It can range from the economy, to the issue of gay marriage.”
Believing his streak of bad luck is broken, Tim said he is confident he will do well.
“I think I’ll do relatively well considering all year I did rather poorly,” he added. “Then, I got a second place going into nationals after not placing higher than sixth all year.”
Junior Andy Frost is competing in Congressional Debate.
“It’s basically a mock Congress. I like standing up and giving speeches. I like that you can work with other members of the Congress and get bills and resolutions passed,” he said. “I’m also looking forward to trying some barbecue in Alabama.”
Ross Hatley, 16, is the only sophomore on the team going to nationals. He is competing in International Extemporaneous, which is similar to domestic except on a global level.
“I talk about anything in the world that’s not in America. I enjoy connecting the past and the present and analyzing big picture ideas in the world,” he said. “Nationals is on such a different level than our competitions here. I want to see what other people do in my same event.”
To travel to Birmingham, Ala., with six team members and two coaches will cost close to $10,000.
The team is having a garage sale May 25 in the Saratoga Springs area, and holding car washes throughout the next month.
They are also doing an adopt-a-speech-and-debate-student fundraiser. For at least $25, donors will receive a profile of the debater they adopted, a photo, and a certificate. For more information, call coach Paul Mileo at (775) 220-9539, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.