Free State High School senior achieves highest national speech and debate honor

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A Lawrence high schooler has reached a prestigious milestone after competing in more than 400 rounds of speech and debate competition so far.

Free State senior Sophie Racy has earned the National Speech and Debate Association’s highest honor, the degree of premier distinction. 

Recognized students must accumulate 1,500 competition points during their high school careers. A student earns 1 to 6 points for each round of competition, meaning Racy has participated in more than 400 rounds of competition — with time to spare.

Free State debate coach Kelly Thompson said fewer than 3% of global NSDA members earn the honor every year, according to a post on the Lawrence school district’s Facebook page.

Racy has also qualified for the NSDA National Tournament during each of her four years of high school, and she’s Kansas’ first three-time qualifier for the Tournament of Champions that will be held in April at the University of Kentucky, according to the post.

When Free State won its fourth-straight forensics state title in May 2023, Racy personally placed first in original oratory.

“Help us mark the hundreds of hours Sophie has spent preparing, practicing, competing and honing her communication and leadership skills in speech and debate on her way to this outstanding honor,” the post said.

Learn more about the National Speech and Debate Association on its website,

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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