Eight Vail Valley high school speech stars qualify for nationals
For four local high school students, this is their second trip to the national competition
National Speech and Debate Qualifiers
Eagle Valley High School
John Papadopoulos, senior, qualified in Congress Debate for the second straight year.
Tobin Stone, senior, qualified in World Schools Debate for second straight year.
Caroline Dewell, junior, qualified in Humor Interpretation for the second straight year.
Kalista Farmer, senior, qualified in Program Oral Interpretation.
Herry Garcia, junior, in Dramatic Interpretation.
Battle Mountain High School
Hannah Nelson, junior, qualified World Schools Debate for the second straight year
Elle Dunn, sophomore, World Schools Debate
Silvia Lavarn, freshman, World Schools Debate
To speak with local students who qualified for the national speech and debate finals is to know that our future is in great hands.
Eight Vail Valley high school students qualified for the nationals, scheduled for mid-June in Dallas. For the second consecutive year Eagle Valley is sending five. Battle Mountain will send three, all underclassmen.
Eagle Valley seniors John Papadopoulos and Tobin Stone and junior Caroline Dewell are two-time national qualifiers. So is Battle Mountain’s Hannah Nelson. Experience matters, Stone said. Last year’s World Schools Debate team lost to the eventual national champions.
“Seeing last year how people debated really helped us this year. It’s intense competition,” Stone said.
Papadopoulos qualified again in Congressional Debate. Debates are designed to roughly reflect debate in the U.S. Congress, only more intellectual and less reptilian. Subjects can be almost anything. For example, at last year’s nationals one measure would have abolished the Senate.
“Ironically we were in the Senate when we were debating it,” Papadopoulos said.
Dewell qualified for the second straight year in Humorous Interpretation with “10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse.” She boiled a 30-minute play down to the 10-minute limit. She introduces 10 scenarios and plays all the characters. All her characters survive the zombie apocalypse.
“It’s meant to be funny,” Dewell said. It is.
Eaglr Valley junior Herry Garcia qualified in Dramatic Interpretation. The competitors are required to embody a character or lots of characters. Garcia embodies Scott Peterson, the man who murdered his pregnant wife in 2002.
“Like any psychopath you have to start by being very charismatic and enticing,” Garcia said. “You lose your stability as you go through it.”
He has 10 minutes make his audience feel what he wants them to feel. He has been doing this for months, starting last October when the season opened
“I’m a psychopath every weekend,” he said laughing.
Program Oral Interpretation
Eagle Valley senior Kalista Farmer qualified in Program Oral Interpretation. That means she takes material from lots of sources and styles and folds them into a compelling presentation. Her subject is school shootings. Among her source material are the transcripts of police interrogations of Nikolas Cruz, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter. She plays both the detective and the shooter.
She sings, she performs, she argues passionately.
“It has greatly impacted my life. Taking my fear and turning it into something positive is a good way to deal with it,” Farmer said.
World Schools Debate
Stone is joined on the World Schools Debate team by Battle Mountain’s Nelson, freshman Silvia Lavarn and sophomore Ella Dunn. They’re joined on their Western Slope team by a teammate from Grand Junction Central High School.
Students who succeed in World Schools Debate are able to see and argue both sides of an issue tend to be more successful.
“It’s more logic and reasoning based, instead of being emotionally based as it is in the modern political climate,” Nelson said.
You’re supposed to follow a moral compass.
“You’re docked points for yelling at your opponent or showing outrage at your opponent,” Lavarn said.
That helps them argue the point, instead of attacking their opponent and their personal beliefs, they said.
“That’s why prepare both sides. We have to understand that there are valid points on both sides,” Lavarn said.
“It requires us to depend on our skills, as opposed to how quickly we can smother someone or how quickly we can tear someone down,” Dunn said. “It really does help us to be sound and grounded people who can express opinions without getting heated, without needing to attack someone.”
A World Schools Debate team is five debaters over six preliminary rounds. Three compete at once. The five rotate into and out of competitions, sort of like hockey players but with all their teeth.
In May they’ll get a bunch of topics for which they’ll prepare. About an hour before they go into battle they’ll learn what subject they’re debating and what side they’ll take: proposition or opposition. No internet in that last hour. They just have to know their stuff.
“World Schools Debate requires all the skill sets from all the forms of debate,” Nelson said.
“It’s based on your ability to logically reason, your knowledge of current events, your debate experience, and how much you can carry into a round,” Dunn said.
Participants debate topics like they’re representing the entire world, not just their own country, Eagle Valley’s Stone said.
Speeches are eight minutes long. People stand up in the middle of their presentations to ask questions or disagree. They get points for handling the interruptions with grace and intellect instead of invective and bile.
It enables to them to get to what’s true and what’s not.
For example, last year they asserted reality TV is good and real. They’re so good they won, a towering feat since reality TV is neither good nor real.
“You don’t see the meanness you might in other forums,” Stone said.
If you want something, they have to go after it. To be named to the Western Slope’s national team the Battle Mountain trio had to write letters and convince state officials that they belong in Dallas.
“We’re lucky to have as many girls competing as we do,” Dunn said. “I think that says a lot about the changing climate. Girls are often seen as emotional creatures. We’re here because we’re as good everyone we debate. There’s no room for emotion or bias. We’ve all made it here and we deserve to be here.”
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Eagle County Schools has released a draft document detailing how the school district intends to return in-person and hybrid instruction starting Aug. 18.