While most people are familiar with the success of Rowland Hall’s high school debate team, it’s important to remember where it all begins - in the Middle School! Each year in the spring, students from sixth through eighth grade test their ideas and show off their skills at actual tournaments. This year was perhaps the most outstanding season to date for the Rowland Hall Middle School team.
The competitive season is only six weeks long, but it’s packed with tournament opportunities. Rowland Hall competes at three to four invitational tournaments leading up to the statewide meet. At each tournament students debate on the affirmative and negative sides and must propose specific policies to solve issues facing Utah. This year’s topic was “Resolved: the State of Utah should establish a policy significantly decreasing plastic waste.” Students debated everything from grocery bag initiatives to a new recycling program for e-waste and discovered the economic, social, and environmental consequences of each proposal. It’s safe to say that they learned a lot through the process.
Many debaters achieved success during the regular season tournaments. At Mount Logan, the Middle School team finished in second place. At the Jordan District competition, three Rowland Hall teams went undefeated, including a first place finish by Emily Fowler and Skylar Diamandis. Rowland Hall hosted a tournament where Jack Rubinstein and Jamie Steiner finished fifth overall and Nate Levinson was named the fourth Best Individual Speaker.
At the State tournament, over 150 students from 20 public and private schools competed in two debate events. Rowland Hall came away with the championship and a variety of other medals and awards! In Lincoln-Douglas debate (one-on-one event), Allie Zehner won the Top Speaker Award, which goes to the best individual speaker at the tournament regardless of record. In Policy debate (team event), Atticus Hickman and Emilie Orfanakis finished sixth, while the team of Will McNamara and Soren Feola (pictured) went undefeated and walked away with the State title.
Finally, the National Energy Foundation (which sponsors Utah Middle School debate) selected Emily Fowler to be the recipient of the Harry B. Davis Spirit of Utah Debate Award! This Student of the Year award is in honor of long-time coach and community member Harry Davis who passed away in 2013. Utah Debate has several ways for recognizing competitive achievement, but this honor annually rewards students whose attitude transcends trophies and accolades; a student who characterizes the very traits of humility, integrity, leadership, respect and service that Harry Davis embodied as a friend of Utah Debate. Emily was one of the team’s few returning debaters from last year and her leadership was instrumental to the team’s success.
This was certainly a special year and the future looks bright for the entire debate program. The Middle School debate program started six years ago and this year’s graduating senior class will be the first set of students to have had the opportunity to start their careers in the Middle School. With so many young and talented students falling in love with debate this year, Rowland Hall has a lot to look forward to in the coming years!