Speech and debate team flies to Kentucky for NCFL Nationals

The Davis High speech and debate team enjoys pizza at Spinelli’s Pizzeria while waiting for results on which competitors will advance to elimination rounds. (Courtesy: J. Widman)

By Jamie Moddelmog and Albert Hu, Staff–

The Davis High speech and debate team brought nine members to Louisville, Kentucky to compete at the National Catholic Forensic League (NCFL) speech and debate tournament for Memorial Day weekend. To qualify for this elite tournament, competitors have to achieve a high placing at a regional qualifier in January.

Davis qualified competitors in Policy Debate, Public Forum Debate Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Original Oratory Speech and Congressional Debate. At the tournament, the team achieved relative success with senior Benton Harshaw advancing to quarter finals in Lincoln-Douglas Debate and with two other teams making it to double octo-finals.

Sophomores and partners Amanda Niemela and Jack Walsh competed in policy debate, making it to double octo-finals while not losing a single preliminary round. This accomplishment was underscored by the fact that Walsh and Niemela had never debated together before. They had both qualified with different partners who had not been able to attend and were forced to quickly grow accustomed to debating with each other.

“It was really successful. We worked really well together because our energy levels played off each other’s,” Niemela said.  “We were both experienced in the same and in different areas which made it possible to cover a wider sphere of what we could talk about.”

In addition, the debaters were thankful for the experience they got against national competitors and for the copious notes they received from judges on ways to improve.

“We had one debate where we did not gain the favor of our judge and they wrote a 2,000 word essay on how much they hated us,” Walsh said.

Along with harsh judges, the competitors also faced harsh competition, as they squared off against the nation’s best.

The public forum team of junior Rocket Drew and senior Peter Zhu lost their first round in their history as a team against what Drew believed to be “the best team in the country.”

Even in defeat, members of the Davis team still enjoyed themselves, socializing in hotel rooms and exploring the city of Louisville.

“Doing speech and debate isn’t about winning, it’s about experience.  As Miley Cyrus would say, it’s about the climb,” Drew said.  “That journey is really powerful and it’s full of dedication and good experiences with good people. You make a lot of friends along the way and where you hang out in hotel rooms in really solidifies those relationships and makes everyone feel good about themselves regardless of how good they did that day.”

For Niemela, the highlight of the trip was the food.  The competitors enjoyed authentic Kentucky fried chicken (from somewhere other than KFC) and experienced many restaurants that cannot be found in California. Finally, the team visited the Louisville Slugger Museum and looked at bats used by famous baseball players throughout history.  

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