Students win State Debate Tournament
Waukee High School seniors Michael Sylvester and Joel Berner won the large school public forum division at the IHSSA State Debate Tournament held on January 4-5. The tournament hosted approximately sixty teams in that division, and Sylvester and Berner finished the tournament undefeated. This marks the first state title that Waukee has received in public forum debate. Additionally, Sylvester was named the top speaker of the tournament and Berner was named the eighth best speaker.
Juniors Carter Kemmet and Dalton Doom also had a strong run, which ended in the quarterfinal round only because they hit Sylvester and Berner. When teams from the same school hit, or face each other in competition, the coach must decide who will continue to debate. Coach Amanda Gaul selected the team with the higher seed: Sylvester and Berner.
Waukee’s debate team has earned numerous other accolades this year. Sylvester and Kemmet secured an invitation to the Tournament of Champions, a prestigious national tournament held in Kentucky each spring, by winning the Valley tournament and making it to the quarterfinal round at the Dowling tournament. This duo also won the East tournament. Other consistent contributors to the team are juniors Hunter Christenson, Blake Scantlin, Morgan Wright, Sydney Graham, Sanika Sherry, and Jason Lee.
Public forum is a style of debate that the average citizen can watch and evaluate. Two teams debate a current controversial topic, which changes each month. Minutes before a round of competition, a coin toss decides which side of the debate each team will argue, as well as the order of the speakers. They then present and defend their own case and try to attack their opponents’ case. Judges decide who wins by weighing the arguments and evidence presented.