Debate team prepares for Districts


Maddie Cooke

Practicing for her poetry event at the Jefferson City Invitational, held Jan. 28 through 29, junior Khushali Sarnot recites her piece to sophomores Kristina Humphrey and Nina Maitra.

With the post-season approaching, the Speech and Debate team has been preparing for the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) and Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) districts, hoping to later qualify for nationals or state.

The competitors range from freshman novices like Beatrice Antonenko to senior varsity debaters including Kent Robinson.

“Competing as a novice is definitely intimidating, but it’s helpful to start early and get exposed to people that may or may not be better than you,” Antonenko said. “You have to practice your piece as if you were competing against the number one speaker in your speech or debate.”

Robinson, a four year Speech and Debate veteran, hopes to return to the national spotlight again.

“I have placed at both [state and nationals]. In my sophomore year, I qualified to the state and national tournament in Original Oratory, and in my junior year, I was a state quarterfinalist in Public Forum debate,” Robinson said. “After having done very well in the competitive scene in previous years, there’s definitely pressure to keep it up.”

My primary qualities are dedication and consistency. This means that a student has not just gone to many tournaments but worked hard to prepare and reflect,”

— Cara Borgsmiller

Debaters in the MSHSAA districts have the chance to compete for a spot in state, whereas NSDA district competitors like Antonenko and Robinson qualify to nationals.

MSHSAA works more like the Senate does. Each competing school gets one entry in each event and two in debate,” Debate coach Cara Borgsmiller said. “NSDA is more like the House of Representatives; we get entries based on the size and competitive prowess of the team.”

Borgsmiller offered 10 MSHSAA spots along with six debate positions and 34 total NSDA spots based on certain qualifications that she looked for in all levels of students.

My primary qualities are dedication and consistency. This means that a student has not just gone to many tournaments but worked hard to prepare and reflect,” Borgsmiller said. “It also means that they have worked in a consistent event to improve in that area rather than moving around to many different ones.”

From the first districts tournament to last, the debaters continue write cases, edit and rehearse, preparing themselves for all types of competition that they may experience at both MSHSAA districts, held at Parkway South March 3 to 4, and NSDA districts, March 9 through 11 at Ladue, Clayton and Pattonville.

“Districts is what we work for all season; these few weekends are what [it’s] all about,” Borgsmiller said. “We all have our good days and our bad. If you happen to have a good day on qualifying day, then it could be yours. I have a feeling many of our students, new and old, we seize the opportunity to have a few good days in early March.”