State Debate 2019

Chloe Hanigan

Sugar Beet staff reporter

While most Garden City High School students were free to spend a long weekend hiding from the snow, debaters from across the state braved the weather for the state debate tournament Friday, Jan. 11 and Saturday, Jan. 12. This year’s contest was the third state tournament that Garden City has hosted in debate history. The privilege was finally granted after 3 years of offering.

Organizing such a large event was a difficult feat. Approximately 50-60 schools attended, which amounted to around 350 competitors. Classrooms were taken over for competition and the commons area was transformed into a sort of lounge, with concessions open and football games projected for entertainment. While contestants lounged around between rounds, though, several GCHS staff members were hard at work making sure the tournament ran smoothly.

“My adult team of folks who helped this tournament happen were incredible,” Russ Tidwell, the head debate team coach, said. “Dana Johnson took control of concessions and hospitality, Cody Morrison and Kasey Copeland managed the building, and Sean Atchley and Shelby McNutt ran the community judges table. All of those people made the event successful.”

The huge tournament also required an array of judges, positions filled by community members and GCHS staff.

Lisa Morton, a freshman academy math teacher, was happy to help out as a judge. “I never participated in debate or forensics in high school,” Morton said. “But I love helping out students in any way possible.

Morton and other teachers went through a training process to learn how to properly judge contestants, but Morton said she still struggled with some of the terminology.

“Once I got into the swing of it [judging], it got easier. I loved being here and hearing everyone’s research and thorough debate,” Morton said. “I would certainly volunteer as a judge again in the future.”

The hard work put into hosting the event was worth it to the participants, who were for the first time able to enjoy a bit of a home field advantage.

“For almost every tournament we go to, we have to drive 2-7 hours,” Caitlyn Harman, a senior debate team member, said. “For once, we get to be somewhere where we are comfortable.”

Harman noted her thanks for even small advantages, such as knowing where to find an outlet and being able to sleep in her own bed. She was also grateful for the support of parents, former debaters, and the community.

After a long two days, the event finally concluded with a late awards ceremony at 1 a.m. Sunday morning. The buffalo team did not have any members break, or move qualify for elimination rounds, but Tidwell was pleased with their performance nonetheless.

“I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Tidwell said. “All of the debaters worked hard and gave the tournament their very best.”

Chloe Hanigan is a trade and health academy senior. Contact her at

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