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Draper Journal

Juan Diego Wins Sixth Consecutive State Debate Title

May 05, 2016 01:14PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Draper - Winning doesn’t come any easier, even for Juan Diego Catholic High School’s speech and debate team that has captured six straight consecutive state debate championships and seven titles in eight years.

“We’re happy, but we don’t expect to win,” said debate coach Moses Baca. “It’s our consistency that helps us win, but we have a target on our back and the competition improves and is stronger each year so we can’t get complacent. This shows that our students work so hard and can do so well.”

This year, Juan Diego finished ahead of Park City High, with the score of 85 to 81. Twenty-five students of the 60-member Soaring Eagles team competed as the number of participants in the state tournament is capped.

Two Juan Diego policy teams shared the title of state champions: senior Emily Luther and junior Emi Solorzano as well as senior Lauren Andrews and sophomore Brendan McQuillan. In Lincoln-Douglas debate, senior Ghada Shehab won the state title as did sophomore Andy Schuman in national extemporaneous speaking. Junior Brie Bauer claimed the state championship in foreign extemporaneous speaking.

Other top finishers include the public forum debate team of seniors Anna Warrell and David Hurtado, who were unbeaten in preliminary rounds and finished second after advancing to the finals; senior Sierra Moses, who won second in the final round in original oratory after being ranked first in preliminary rounds; senior Andrew Zinman, who was third after finishing second in preliminary rounds in impromptu speaking; freshman Abigail Whittington, who finished seventh in preliminary rounds of impromptu speaking; and sophomore Timothy Carroll who was a finalist in congressional debate.

“The team was pretty excited. They knew the comments they were receiving were really good so they were pumped and just thrilled when the title was announced,” Baca said. 

The state title comes after finishing second to Logan High at the regional tournament Juan Diego hosted on Feb. 23. Two outstanding performances included Abigail’s win in impromptu and Andy’s win in extemporaneous speaking.

The season doesn’t end here for some debate members. The policy team of Lauren and junior Nicole Blaber qualified for the April 30-May2 Tournament of Champions in Kentucky, in which 64 teams compete for the national title. They have prepared all season by competing in tournaments in Las Vegas, California, Texas and other nationally ranked tournaments in Utah.

In addition, the public forum team of sophomore Jordan Vanderveen and freshman Cade Novara qualified for the National Speech and Debate Association tournament in June. The event rotates venues and this year, it will be held June 12-17 in the Salt Lake City area. The two qualified at the March 5 Bingham High tournament.

“As nationals approach, they will be doing more of the same — researching and writing as well as making arguments. All these students are learning skills that will help them become effective college students,” he said.

The team, which has been ranked in the top 25 nationally, has had students accept college scholarship offers to Michigan State University, University of California at Berkeley, University of Michigan and University of Southern California amongst others.

As debate continues through the end of the school year, there is no real off-season for debate and speech team members. There are possibilities of attending summer debate camps or spending the summer researching. 

Historically in August, students will begin practicing as a team after school several times each week. As tournaments approach, students often dedicate 10 hours of preparation weekly for the tournaments, which are held on most weekends. 

“We’re already talking to students to recruit new members to join the squad. We’re looking ahead for another great season,” he said.