Miramonte Public Speaking and Debate Head to State Championship

Arianna Tong, Staff Writer

The 2013 – 2014 season has been remarkably successful for Miramonte’s Public Speaking and Debate team. The class, which is headed by teachers Kristin Plant and Franck Reyherme, has achieved paramount success going into the 2014 California State Championship. This year’s State team consists of 37 students who will compete in Modesto starting today, and have qualified for 13 events ranging from debate to oratory style speaking.

“This year we had more people qualify to state than in previous years, and I think it’s due in large part to the additional help of Mrs. Maguire and the coaches that have come back to help the team,” senior Caie Kelley said.

Kelley is one of the four presidents of the program, and has played a critical role in the team’s success for the past four years. As a freshman, Kelley qualified for State and has auto-qualified for State two consecutive years in a row. Auto-qualification happens after a student wins their event at three district tournaments. The senior, who has played a large leadership role on the team this year, will be concluding her speech and debate career at the National Championship in Kansas later this year.

“When I was a freshman I remember looking up to the upperclassmen when they did well, and that really helped shape what I wanted to do to help the team,” Kelley said.

This year’s success has been different compared to previous years. “We did really well this year, and what’s really cool about this season is that not only are the seniors our star speakers, we have freshmen who were successful, such as Brad Berkman and Callan Hoskins,” senior Charles Hindman said.

“In the past, the success of the team was very top heavy, with few top senior speakers. I think that the variety of success this team has from our top senior speakers to the underclassmen, will be a strength coming into the State tournament and many years to come,” Hindman said.

One example of a rising leader on the team is junior, Sean McFeely. McFeely qualified for the State Championship all three years, and auto qualified for State in the event impromptu.

“I think the critical difference between my freshman and junior years was the fact that the upperclassmen have established the importance of hard work,” McFeely said. “I was pretty wonderstruck my freshman year that I got to go to State, but we kept seeing the same people year after year. That’s when we realized that our team needs to work harder to change competition.”

While this year’s State Team is one of the largest to date, the Matadors hope to continue the ongoing victorious reign that has been established over the years. “We hope to continue the tradition of excellence, and get top 10 as we did last year. Last year we got fifth overall, and our goal is to come out of the tournament with 1-3 state champions like we did last year,” senior Noah Goldstein said.

A vast majority of the first semester and third quarter is dedicated to preparation for the State Qualifier. “The first few months of the second semester are intense because everyone is working hard to qualify for state. In the last four years, I’ve learned that it takes hours, weeks, and months of practice to be competitively successful,” senior Daniel Galarza said.

Preparation for tournaments requires extensive research outside of school, according to junior Avan Chu. “For Congress we usually start preparation two weeks in advance. Research is typically a collective team effort, where everyone who is going to the tournament is assigned a specific research assignment on a bill or resolution,” Chu said.

The research conducted by students is derived from multiple news sources, according to Chu. “We usually research to find out about the bill. Normally we will use news sources such as the Economist, New York Times, or CNN to have a basic idea of what we will be debating, and how to approach the debate,” Chu said.

“The fact that we dedicate so much time to congress has been super helpful for everyone who competes in this event. Preparation for state quals was pretty tedious, but what made a critical difference was that I had my teammates’ and Mrs. Maguire’s help,” McFeely said.

For the State Qualifier, preparation and practices became more intense and rigorous, “The state qualifier brings a lot of tension around the month of March because the top eight to 10 speakers (depending on the person’s event) in each event in our district qualify to state. Everyone is so talented that it’s extremely challenging to even make it to the semi-final round,” junior Julia Meckes said.

“If you made it to state, preparation for the qualifier was just the beginning. We’re given a few weeks to take a break, but after spring break we start to step up practices and preparing weeks in advance for State,” said Galarza

“For state we practice in front of different classes for new audiences and work on our own with coaches privately to ensure that we’re well rehearsed and ready to go,” Kelley said.

While the Matadors have been notoriously successful, victory is far out of reach without hard work. “The fact that we’re competitively successful and have established prestige as a team speaks volumes. For big tournaments like the qualifier and state, we know we need to work extra hard because we have a responsibility to properly represent Miramonte,” junior Ray Barrie-Kivel said.