Hilltalkers triumph at district competition

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By Alexandra Hehlen

Between March 21 and 23, the Hilltalkers, Los Alamos High School’s debate team, attended the New Mexico District Qualifying Tournament at Albuquerque Academy.
Daniel Ahrens, Ali Berl, Katie Haynes, Sam Baty, Naftali Burakovsky, Toni Batha and Jessie Zhao all qualified in various speech and debate competitions. They will now go to the National Forensic League National Tournament in Birmingham, Ala. in June.
The team has been working all year preparing for its various tournaments.
Debaters take part in numerous competitions such as Lincoln Douglas debate, which “is a one-versus-one” event “about the morality of an issue,” according to George Barnum, a high school junior and debate team member.
Some members participate in the Congress debate event, which Barnum said “simulates Congressional procedure.”
Debaters in the Public Forum event discuss current issues in teams and Policy Debate members go head-to-head in duos as they debate a matter they research all year.
Hilltalkers in the speech part of the tournament participate in competitions such as the Interpretation, Original Oratory and Expository events.
In the Interpretation competition, the contenders each must convey their own understanding of a given book in a verbal speech, in which they imitate elements of that book.
“With Original Oratory and Expository you actually have to write the speech. Original Oratory is a persuasive speech and Expository is informative,” said Adele Mitchell, a freshman on the speech team.
The Hilltalkers meet continuously for at least once a week — and while frequent collaboration prepares them for their competitions — each member also learns argumentative and speaking skills.
Mitchell said her time on the speech team has significantly improved her articulation. “With braces, I stuttered a lot,” Mitchell said. “(Now) everything’s gone.”
Senior Sam Baty said, “Speech and debate has been very rewarding. I am a senior and so I have done it for four years. It’s given me a tremendous number of life skills and I’ve really enjoyed every part of it. Qualifying to nationals is just the icing on the cake.”
Behind every debate team going to nationals is also a driven coach.
Margo Batha and her co-coach Janet Newton are both teachers at LAHS and have been working with their team over the past school year in preparation for their various tournaments.
Batha recently won the award for New Mexico Debate Coach of the Year.
“She’s just amazing. She’s the best coach we could ever ask for,” Mitchell said.