No debate: Students give it their all |

No debate: Students give it their all

Douglas High senior Corie Nalder practices her speech before the beginning of competition Friday.
Brad Coman |

More than 200 high school students gathered over the weekend to pursue their season-long goals when the Northern Nevada Forensics League district speech and debate competition was held at Douglas High School.

They spent more than 30 hours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday discussing such topics as health care, education, U.S. government, foreign affairs and economics. And on Saturday, a number of those students achieved their goals to qualify for the National Speech & Debate Association championships this summer in Alabama, including a handful of Douglas Tigers.

Connor Brown took first-place in Senate Debate and Lea Gifford first-place in Humorous Interpretation to earn automatic berths to the nationals. Gifford, a sophomore, qualified for her second trip to nationals.

Willard Franklin in Oral Interpretation Wes Alexander in Domestic Extemp Speaking and Corie Nalder in Informative Speaking have qualified as alternates.

“It’s kind of surreal; it’s exciting to have come full circle and watch the team grow and develop,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for a better team to end my senior year.”Connor Brown

“I am absolutely proud of their effort,” Douglas coach Karen Heine said. “They stayed strong till the end. Corie had a disaster with her poster boards when she got caught in the rain Thursday night. It destroyed one of the boards and she totally put it all back together again Friday morning.”

Heine expressed her gratitude to the community for supporting the event as judges and such donations as food from J.T. Basque Restaurant that helped the program raise funds for its trip to nationals.

Brown, a senior who serves as team captain, gave credit to his teammates for their performances.

“It’s kind of surreal,” he said. “It’s exciting to have come full circle and watch the team grow and develop. I just couldn’t ask for a better team to end my senior year with.”

Brown also gave credit to Heine for “breathing new life into the program” as she returned to coach Douglas forensics after being away for a decade. Heine is the team’s third coach in four years.

“We’ve held through,” Brown said. “The character of Douglas speech and debate is to persevere and do well.”

This marks the third time Brown has qualified for nationals, which will be held June 18-23 in Birmingham, AL. He said that winning the coveted Senate Debate, which traditionally showcases senior debaters, was a special achievement.

“This is the tournament that really mattered, where everybody has been preparing for all year,” Brown said. “I wasn’t expecting to get first-place. I just gave it my best shot; I had been prepping a lot for it, putting in a lot of time and effort.”

Some of the discussions were emotional, Nalder explained.

“The last topic for Public Forum Debate was discussing Palestine as a state, and so people were passionate about that,” she said. “Our Lincoln-Douglas was the United States ought to guarantee the right to housing and that was quite an interesting topic, too. You have to learn how to debate, no matter what the circumstances are.”

No matter how emotional the discussion might be, however, freshman Mitchell Levy added that the competitors share a respect for each other.

“One of my favorite things about debate is the ability to have a very interesting discussion with somebody and still come out of it as friends,” he said. “We’re all friends and it’s definitely been a great experience for me to have.”

Senior Lindsey Swart explained during Speech Interpretation on Saturday that regardless of the outcome on any given day or night, the objective to strive for improvement.

“We don’t just go home and quit the team,” she said. “We go home and try to get better and come back the next month and do just as well or better than we did the last time.”

Two Reno students — Heather Foster of Reno High School and Ryan Regier of Damonte Ranch (both National Merit Scholarship semifinalists) — were recognized as the Marty Cronin high-point award winners late Saturday night. In her presentation, Rommy Cronin, director of Curriculum and Instruction for the Douglas County School District, spoke of forensics as a family affair.

“Rommy quoted her son, Mac Cronin, who went through four years of high school debate and was highly esteemed on the college debate circuit (at Wake Forest),” Heine recalled. “He said, ‘Debate is such a family thing.’ And I do think this is a family.”