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Helmut Schmidt, Published June 12 2013

Shanley High School sends two debate teams to nationals

FARGO – Two Shanley High School debate teams will represent North Dakota in a national debate tournament next week.

Sebastian and Thomas Startz, who will be seniors this fall, and Hannah Keogh and Eliana Goehring, who will be juniors, leave today for the National Forensic League National Speech and Debate Tournament in Birmingham, Ala.

The teams will face off in public forum debate with about 250 other teams from across the nation, coach Robert Littlefield said Wednesday.

This year’s topic is straight out of the headlines – “Resolved: The benefits of American drone strikes against foreign targets outweigh the harms.”

In advance of the tourney, the teams have practiced against each other and studied and revised their arguments over several hours each day since school got out, the debaters said.

They have also sparred with debaters from South Dakota, Littlefield said.

“They’ve really grown a lot this year,” Littlefield said. “All four are very smart. They’re sincere. They’re unassuming in many ways. They know what they have to do.”

Public forum debate is more audience-focused than other styles of debate, with participants mixing persuasive speaking techniques with their research and logic.

The debaters have to prepare to argue both the pros and the cons of the issue. A coin flip at the start of the debate lets the winner decide either what they want to argue, or whether they want to speak first or last.

The format not only has the debaters present their arguments, it includes “crossfire” sessions, where two debaters trade direct questions, and a grand crossfire, in which all four debaters probe for weaknesses in their opponents’ stances.

The Startz brothers were also part of the Shanley squad that won the 12th annual International Public Policy Forum debate competition in New York in April.

Sebastian Startz welcomes the challenge and change of pace in this national competition.

“I look forward to meeting new people, debating kids outside of the region,” he said. “It opens up a new view of debate. Everyone does it differently.”

The national forensics tourney runs Sunday through June 21, with the initial rounds of debate held all day Monday and Tuesday morning. The top 60 teams continue with elimination rounds, Littlefield said.

Chase Johnson, who just graduated from Shanley, will also be at the tournament, competing in the United States extemporaneous speaking category, Littlefield said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583