Free State sweeps speech and debate national qualifier; Lawrence High qualifies 7

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Free State High School’s forensics team dominated the speech and debate national qualifier over the weekend, winning all four sweepstakes awards and seeing nine students punch their tickets to the national tournament. 

Lawrence High School qualified seven of its students for the national tournament, which will be held June 16-21 in Des Moines, Iowa. Lawrence High and Free State both compete in the East Kansas district. 

The qualifying tournament hands out four sweepstakes awards to teams with the best performance in different sections of the tournament. Free State won all four, claiming the top spot in debate events, congressional events, speech events and overall.

For Free State, Anwen Williams placed high enough to qualify in three events, including first-place finishes in international extemporaneous speaking and house congressional debate. She also finished second place in informative speaking. 

Lena Hasiuk qualified in senate congressional debate. Cooper Elo and Nathan Peltier were joined by Carter Fite and Eli Roust qualifying in public forum debate. Roust also placed high enough to qualify in informative speaking.

Ava Ayala qualified in humorous interpretation; Connor Brown in domestic extemporaneous speaking and Olive Minor in original oratory.

Connor Brown and Sophie Racy placed first and qualified in policy debate in December.

For Lawrence High, seven students qualified in six entries.

Rose Kennedy placed first in informative speaking. Trent Blettner and Devyn Ridings also qualified in the same event. 

Giulia Ventello placed first in dramatic interpretation and qualified to nationals. Adelle Spiess qualified in congressional debate. Shea Spiess and Madeline Williams qualified in duo interpretation. 


Both teams will now focus on the state championship tournament May 3-4 at Garden City High School. The Firebirds will be aiming for their fifth straight state title. 

Free State will host their annual showcase at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 1 in the school’s auditorium. The event will feature performances from the students preparing to compete at the state tournament.

Lawrence High School is holding a fundraiser to help support team travels, equipment and materials. The fundraiser was about two-thirds of the way to its $15,000 goal as of Monday afternoon. Donations can be made at this link.

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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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