MOUNT VERNON — The speech and debate team from Mount Vernon High School ended its season with a bang, earning a number of trophies at the 40th Annual John Marshall Speech and Debate Tournament. The prestigious invitational event was held at Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va., on Feb. 4 and 5.
Coach Jeff Gottke said it was a great ending to the season.
“We got to go debate against some tough competition at a larger, two-day tournament that has semifinals and final rounds,” he said. “We love going to that tournament every year. It’s prestigious and the competition is a lot tougher than at others we’ve gone to.”
Mount Vernon’s team, which includes Alexis Szenas, Cynthia Mackie, Rochelle Salazar, Chelsea Kempton and Stephen Rowe, came in first in the small schools division and sixth overall, and team members placed second in the debate events. Individually, Sarah Bertschy and Lindsey Studebaker placed third in public forum debate; Trent Grohe was sixth in the John Marshall legacy speech; Arie Alvarado, Kirk Menapace and Ruthanne Bandy won third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the student congress; and in overall speaking ability — tone, variety, pitch, rate, and volume — Nicole Moore and Grohe came in fourth and fifth, respectively.
Stephen Rowe, grade nine, is a public forum debater and also did the John Marshall legacy speech. He explained what the public forum is.
“Public forum is a style of debate where you’ve got two teams,” he said. “Each has two people on it and you square off over a resolution. One side is pro and the other side is con, and you can be either one. So it’s very intense debate, because you have to be able to argue both sides of an issue. Our issue was: Plea bargaining undermines the criminal justice system. We did pretty well. It was just really fun. Debating the issue was great. We learned so much about it. It was a really great time.”
“Nicole [Moore], Stephen and I are second speakers,” added junior Sarah Bertschy, “so our speech is entirely extemporaneous based on how the debate has gone. The first speaker writes the speech ahead of time and reads it at the debate.”
The second speaker gives the rebuttal, Stephen said.
“You have to take notes on their speech and then you have to find, using the knowledge that you have, logical arguments that point out flaw in their arguments.”