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‘Lesson in leadership’

BHS speech and debate qualifies for nationals


Bolivar High School’s speech and debate team will soon represent the community on the national level as the team recently qualified for two national competitions. 

The National Catholic Forensic League competition will be held in Washington, D.C. from Friday, May 27, to Monday, May 30. The National Speech and Debate Association  competition will be in Louisville, Kentucky, from Sunday, June 12, through Saturday, June 18.

“We are part of the National Catholic Forensic League, and this year will be sending five students to the national tournament over Memorial Day weekend,” Ethan Samuel, the program’s head coach, said. “The BHS Debate team will have a total of 11 students competing for the National Speech and Debate Association's national tournament.”

According to Samuel, Jackson Cornell, Rachel Marsch, Sol Manis, Jesse Fields Jr. and Avery Roweton will be competing in the NCFL tournaments.

He said Fields, Cornell, Marsch, Manis and Roweton also qualified for the NSDA tournaments, along with Jacob Morgan, Ben Gann, Kathryn "Paige" Severns, Dillan McNish, Samijia Brown and Lacey Ashlock.

According to Samuel, this is the largest group to qualify for nationals in Bolivar debate team history.

Earlier this year, the debate team went to the Missouri State High School Activities Association state championships. Fields participated in the Lincoln Douglas debate, and Robert Clark participated in radio speaking, Samuel said.

“The championship was April 22 and 23, and neither of these young men advanced to elimination rounds at state,” he said.

Samuel said the Bolivar debate team reached notable records this season, including multiple sweepstakes awards, a presence in the Top 5 schools in the competition district, and the Administrator of the Year award from the NSDA for high school principal David Geurin.

The team also accumulated individual wins this season.

Manis, a BHS junior and Lincoln Douglas participant, was named the Midwest Regional Champion in the Ronald Reagan Scholarship Tournament, Samuel said.

The Reagan Scholarship Tournament will be held at the Ronald Reagan Library in California from Thursday, July 21, through Sunday, July 24.

Manis will be competing for some of the $50,000 scholarship prize.

Gann, a BHS senior, will be competing in the Lincoln Douglas Debate at the NSDA competition, Samuel said. He is the first Bolivar student to qualify for nationals in all three events he took to the district tournaments.

“He was a senate qualifier in Congressional debate, district champion in Dramatic Interpretation, and district champion in Lincoln Douglas debate,” Samuel said.

Gann said that he is also “the first student to qualify in both the House and Senate of Student Congress.”

Samuel said all these records were accidentally broken as the team focused on the fun aspects of being a part of the debate world.

“Speech and debate across the nation suffered when we couldn't get together, so we took this year to focus on having fun and getting our teammates as excited for the chance to do it the right way safely as anything else,” Samuel said.

Gann, who has been on the debate team since his freshman year of high school, said he learned leadership and teamwork skills while on the debate team.

“Speech and debate has been a big pillar for me throughout high school, and it's a great community led by good people,” Gann said. “For every ounce of speaking skills I learned, a lesson in leadership or teamwork was right there beside it.”


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