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Rowland Hall Debate Wins Fourth Consecutive State Title

For the fourth straight year, Rowland Hall Debate has claimed the 3A speech and debate state title.

And while it might look easy to defend a title when it’s been done three years in a row, Rowland Hall’s debaters are quick to tell you that, thanks to the nature of the event and the quality of teams that turn up each year, it’s definitely not.

“This was by far the closest tournament yet,” said Coach Mike Shackelford. In fact, Rowland Hall held onto the state title only by a single point, finishing 103-102 over Juab High School. Mike credits the full commitment of each debater in securing this year’s tight win.

“Every person on the team played a critical role in this collective effort,” he said.

A major part of that effort was that debaters were willing to take on speech events they don’t ordinarily compete in. As a debate-first team, Mike explained, Rowland Hall students specialize in events such as Lincoln-Douglas, Policy, and Public Forum. But at state, teams that want the top spot also need to compete in speech events such as Impromptu, Extemporaneous Speaking, and Oratory. Additionally, because Rowland Hall plays up a division level to compete in 3A, the team has fewer debaters than other schools, and so team members have to be willing to drop their usual events and/or compete in new events to secure enough points to hang on to the state title.

“Almost no one was in their traditional event, but they translated prior debate experience into a new challenge,” said Mike. “It’s not just showing up—we had to mutate and morph and try new things.”

Senior Logan Fang was one of these students. Usually a Policy debater, Logan took on Public Forum and Extemporaneous Speaking for the first time this year at state and said his time on the team prepared him for this change.

“Given how well Rowland Hall Debate prepares you to be successful in different events, the adjustment was relatively smooth,” said Logan. “Switching to a speech event just meant I had to focus more on persuasive speaking and articulation, compared to the fast delivery of Policy.”

For senior Harris Matheson, who took on the Foreign Extemporaneous event in addition to the Public Forum event he specializes in, the experience built his confidence and connections with his teammates.

“Two other Rowland Hall debaters and I made it to the finals of Foreign Extemp this year, helping the team get the points we needed to win state,” said Harris. “I learned that if I set my mind to a task, I am capable of doing well at it, and it’s even more rewarding to do it with others.”

For this year’s seniors, the state win marks a new milestone: the first time a group of Rowland Hall debaters has helped claim a state title every year of their high school careers.

For seniors Harris and Logan, as well as Marina Peng and Rosie Schaefer, this year’s win also marks a new milestone: the first time a group of Rowland Hall debaters has helped claim a state title every year of their high school careers. It’s an honor these students worked hard for.

“Defending the championship each year added both pressure and motivation,” said Marina. “Knowing that we were the ones to beat made us try our hardest and do our best in every round we were in.”

But while these seniors are the first to have this experience as Rowland Hall debaters, they, like their coach, are clear that it takes the commitment of each team member to be victorious and that their state win is a reflection of team-wide dedication.

“When each member of the team does their best and gives it their all, being able to see our effort shown in our title really means something,” said Harris.

This team-first attitude is passed on each year by experienced debaters and helps make Rowland Hall’s program such a success, locally and nationally. As another school year wraps, Mike expressed his gratitude to this year’s seniors for the role they played in the Rowland Hall Debate legacy.

“They led by example and demonstrated that the team is bigger than the individual,” said Mike. “Thanks to them, I'm confident the next generation of debaters will know what it takes to win and I'll be able to rely on them.”

Rowland Hall Debate State Performances 2024

Below are Rowland Hall’s top performances at the 2024 state tournament.

  • Ninth grader Tyson Brown was the top Student Congress debater from Rowland Hall. In Student Congress, debaters lead and participate in a simulation about pieces of national legislation.
  • Ninth grader Chloe Vezina was the state finalist in Impromptu Speaking, an event in which debaters prepare and deliver five-minute speeches on random topics, with only one to two minutes of preparation.
  • Senior Logan Fang took second in Extemporaneous Speaking, an event in which debaters are given a current event question and have 30 minutes to research, write, and deliver seven-minute speeches.
  • Junior Aiden Gandhi was Rowland Hall’s top Lincoln-Douglas performer, finishing fifth for his solo debate on the ethics of rehabilitation in criminal justice. Lincoln-Douglas contestants debate the pros and cons of a topic one-on-one.
  • Junior Elena Owens and senior Marina Peng took second in Public Forum, an event in which debaters give short speeches interspersed with three-minute crossfire sections. Their topic was on paying college athletes. Seniors Harris Matheson and Rosie Schaefer took third in this event, and ninth grader Chloe Vezina and sophomore Anya Ellahie finished fifth.
  • Sophomores Gavin Schmidt and Baker Campsen took first in Policy, an event in which debaters advocate for or against a policy change resolution, for their debate on the best proposals to solve economic inequality. Ninth graders Sofia Drakou and Emery Lieberman were second, and ninth graders Arianna Ali and Elle Prasthofer finished third. That’s a clean sweep!

Debate

Rowland Hall Debate Wins Fourth Consecutive State Title

For the fourth straight year, Rowland Hall Debate has claimed the 3A speech and debate state title.

And while it might look easy to defend a title when it’s been done three years in a row, Rowland Hall’s debaters are quick to tell you that, thanks to the nature of the event and the quality of teams that turn up each year, it’s definitely not.

“This was by far the closest tournament yet,” said Coach Mike Shackelford. In fact, Rowland Hall held onto the state title only by a single point, finishing 103-102 over Juab High School. Mike credits the full commitment of each debater in securing this year’s tight win.

“Every person on the team played a critical role in this collective effort,” he said.

A major part of that effort was that debaters were willing to take on speech events they don’t ordinarily compete in. As a debate-first team, Mike explained, Rowland Hall students specialize in events such as Lincoln-Douglas, Policy, and Public Forum. But at state, teams that want the top spot also need to compete in speech events such as Impromptu, Extemporaneous Speaking, and Oratory. Additionally, because Rowland Hall plays up a division level to compete in 3A, the team has fewer debaters than other schools, and so team members have to be willing to drop their usual events and/or compete in new events to secure enough points to hang on to the state title.

“Almost no one was in their traditional event, but they translated prior debate experience into a new challenge,” said Mike. “It’s not just showing up—we had to mutate and morph and try new things.”

Senior Logan Fang was one of these students. Usually a Policy debater, Logan took on Public Forum and Extemporaneous Speaking for the first time this year at state and said his time on the team prepared him for this change.

“Given how well Rowland Hall Debate prepares you to be successful in different events, the adjustment was relatively smooth,” said Logan. “Switching to a speech event just meant I had to focus more on persuasive speaking and articulation, compared to the fast delivery of Policy.”

For senior Harris Matheson, who took on the Foreign Extemporaneous event in addition to the Public Forum event he specializes in, the experience built his confidence and connections with his teammates.

“Two other Rowland Hall debaters and I made it to the finals of Foreign Extemp this year, helping the team get the points we needed to win state,” said Harris. “I learned that if I set my mind to a task, I am capable of doing well at it, and it’s even more rewarding to do it with others.”

For this year’s seniors, the state win marks a new milestone: the first time a group of Rowland Hall debaters has helped claim a state title every year of their high school careers.

For seniors Harris and Logan, as well as Marina Peng and Rosie Schaefer, this year’s win also marks a new milestone: the first time a group of Rowland Hall debaters has helped claim a state title every year of their high school careers. It’s an honor these students worked hard for.

“Defending the championship each year added both pressure and motivation,” said Marina. “Knowing that we were the ones to beat made us try our hardest and do our best in every round we were in.”

But while these seniors are the first to have this experience as Rowland Hall debaters, they, like their coach, are clear that it takes the commitment of each team member to be victorious and that their state win is a reflection of team-wide dedication.

“When each member of the team does their best and gives it their all, being able to see our effort shown in our title really means something,” said Harris.

This team-first attitude is passed on each year by experienced debaters and helps make Rowland Hall’s program such a success, locally and nationally. As another school year wraps, Mike expressed his gratitude to this year’s seniors for the role they played in the Rowland Hall Debate legacy.

“They led by example and demonstrated that the team is bigger than the individual,” said Mike. “Thanks to them, I'm confident the next generation of debaters will know what it takes to win and I'll be able to rely on them.”

Rowland Hall Debate State Performances 2024

Below are Rowland Hall’s top performances at the 2024 state tournament.

  • Ninth grader Tyson Brown was the top Student Congress debater from Rowland Hall. In Student Congress, debaters lead and participate in a simulation about pieces of national legislation.
  • Ninth grader Chloe Vezina was the state finalist in Impromptu Speaking, an event in which debaters prepare and deliver five-minute speeches on random topics, with only one to two minutes of preparation.
  • Senior Logan Fang took second in Extemporaneous Speaking, an event in which debaters are given a current event question and have 30 minutes to research, write, and deliver seven-minute speeches.
  • Junior Aiden Gandhi was Rowland Hall’s top Lincoln-Douglas performer, finishing fifth for his solo debate on the ethics of rehabilitation in criminal justice. Lincoln-Douglas contestants debate the pros and cons of a topic one-on-one.
  • Junior Elena Owens and senior Marina Peng took second in Public Forum, an event in which debaters give short speeches interspersed with three-minute crossfire sections. Their topic was on paying college athletes. Seniors Harris Matheson and Rosie Schaefer took third in this event, and ninth grader Chloe Vezina and sophomore Anya Ellahie finished fifth.
  • Sophomores Gavin Schmidt and Baker Campsen took first in Policy, an event in which debaters advocate for or against a policy change resolution, for their debate on the best proposals to solve economic inequality. Ninth graders Sofia Drakou and Emery Lieberman were second, and ninth graders Arianna Ali and Elle Prasthofer finished third. That’s a clean sweep!

Debate

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