Free State wins fourth-straight forensics state title; Lawrence High takes fourth place

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Post updated at 10:55 a.m. Tuesday, May 9:

Free State High School took home its fourth-straight state forensics title over the weekend, and Lawrence High School finished in fourth place. Both schools sent multiple entries to the finals.

The Firebirds’ fourpeat was the latest accomplishment for the team, which has a reputation as one of the strongest speech and debate programs in the state and nation.

The successful weekend added to a strong year for the local speech and debate programs after both teams saw success in the fall debate season

The forensics season in Kansas features multiple events for students to compete in, with 12 styles of speech and debate being contested over the weekend. School placements are decided by totaling together rankings from students who qualified during the regular season. 

Three Free State students won state championships in their events: Lily Otter in poetry; Ava Ayala in prose; and Cici Hunter in program of oral interpretation. In addition to their championships, Hunter placed in prose, and Ayala was a finalist in humorous interpretation. 

Five other Firebirds made finals in their respective events: Kady Bischmann in domestic extemporaneous; Anwen Williams and Emma Stameyer in international extemporaneous; Emma Hefty in oratory; and Cella Allison in both dramatic interpretation and program of oral interpretation. 

Lawrence High finished in fourth place in the state, with four students making finals in their events: Giulia Ventello and Devyn Ridings both placed in poetry; Channing Morse and Ridings placed in duo interpretation; and Adelle Spiess placed in domestic extemporaneous.

Both schools will send multiple students to Arizona for the National Speech and Debate Tournament in June.

The East Kansas district held its national qualifier last month, and Free State took home top awards — placing first in debate sweepstakes, speech sweepstakes and overall sweepstakes. 

Lawrence High qualified in five events and finished third place overall in the district. 

Free State coach Kelly Thompson was named coach of the year for the region and Free State assistant Brenda Alvarez was named assistant coach of the year.

The Firebirds qualified in eight events for nationals, including first-place finishes from Williams in international extemporaneous and Sophie Racy in original oratory. 

Free State duo reaches final 32 at national debate ‘Tournament of Champions’ 

The Free State debate duo of Racy, a junior, and AJ Persinger, a senior, advanced to the top 32 of the national debate Tournament of Champions, the most competitive policy debate tournament in the nation, and Persinger was named a top-10 individual speaker at the event.

The success marked the third straight year that a team from Free State has cracked the top 32 in the country. Free State won the national title last season. 

This year, Racy and Persinger lost in the final 32 on a close 2-1 decision to Peninsula High School from California. 

Persinger was named the ninth-best individual speaker in the country, her second time being named a top-10 speaker. 

Photos courtesy of Mac Moore, KSHSAA Covered

Seabury brings home two championships

Bishop Seabury Academy students saw success in the Class 1A state championships.

Pancho Metz and Cambill Garlock are state champions in duet acting, and Hugh Griggs took the championship in extemporaneous speaking.

David Klimiuk and Owen Ross took second in duet acting. Eliza Brockhoff and Ross took fourth place in improvised duet acting, and Brockhoff also took fifth in oration.

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Cuyler Dunn (he/him), a contributor to The Lawrence Times, is a student at the University of Kansas School of Journalism. He is a graduate of Lawrence High School where he was the editor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper, The Budget, and was named the 2022 Kansas High School Journalist of the Year. Read more of his work for the Times here.

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