Debate team competes at districts, sends 7 to Nationals

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Zay Yontz, Features Editor

The RBHS Speech and Debate team competed at the National Speech and Debate Eastern Missouri districts tournament at Ladue High School this past weekend, March 17-19. The team sent 27 competitors, with nine RBHS students qualifying to attend nationals.

Freshman Kerra Lindbloom attended districts for the first time and competed in public forum debate. Despite Lindbloom not qualifying for nationals, she said she enjoyed the experience and practice the tournament provided.

“Not breaking into districts initially greatly upset me, however, I am so grateful for the friends I surrounded myself with, as well as my extremely supportive coaches and chairs who helped me overcome this disappointing situation,” Lindbloom said. “They let me cry and communicated words of affirmation and in the end it made me realize how lucky I was to be a part of such an amazing team. I am so fortunate to be surrounded by people who care so much and are so incredibly encouraging.”

We figured out that we would be going against the other RBHS [policy debate] team that had also broken into the bracket and that was a really big challenge, because those are the people that we had really gone into, like, wanting to go to nationals with and realized that we would be eliminating them and that was really hard.”

— Chris Mesfin

After competing in several tournaments this year, the team did well and will be sending people to compete in five different events at the 2022 Nationals Speech and Debate competition in June. Senior Chris Mesfin competed in policy debate and program oral interpretation and went 6-3 in debate, which means he won six debate rounds and lost three. The tournament had four preliminary rounds which broke into octofinals. The team faced challenges throughout the tournament, but were able to overcome them, said Mesfin.

“It seems like whenever I go to districts, it’s always encompassed with a ton of challenges. But this one specifically, after break rounds, which was on Saturday, we had won enough rounds to break into the bracket [play-in octofinals],” Mesfin said. “We figured out that we would be going against the other RBHS [policy debate] team that had also broken into the bracket and that was a really big challenge, because those are the people that we had really gone into, like, wanting to go to nationals with and realized that we would be eliminating them and that was really hard.”

This was only the third in-person tournament the team attended this year because of COVID-19 regulations, so they spent weeks preparing for one of their most important tournaments of the year. The team also placed first place in Congressional debate sweepstakes.

 Dr. Danielle Johnson is the coach of all of the Columbia Public Schools (CPS) debate teams and enjoyed watching the team do well during the tournament. She participated in speech and debate during high school and she helped the team by preparing them with practice rounds and revising cases.

“It’s [the district tournament]the culmination of months of hard work and a passion project realized,” Dr. Johnson said. “To see it all pay off is so fulfilling.”

With each competitor participating in several rounds and attempting to break to the next level, the combined CPS team will be sending 11 people to nationals and hopefully more, Dr. Johnson said. 

“The main goal was for everyone to really do their best. The goal wasn’t to qualify, but the goal is that everyone would leave everything that they had, either in the room, in the debate, whatever,” Mesfin said. “I feel like everyone really did go out and do that. So the goal was achieved.”

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