JMHS Debate team brings home awards

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Home schooled students find out practice pays off

Tom Hanlon

Teen Pulse Staff Writer

The Los Alamos Area Home Educators’ Speech and Debate Team, the Jemez Mountain Home School Speech and Debate Team, drove to Taos for a regional Competition Feb. 12. 

Competition was tough, as competing schools included Taos High School, Los Alamos High School and nine other regional teams. The JMHS 23-member team has been in existence since 2007 and is currently coached by Carolyn Conner.

The day started with registration at 8:30 a.m. and finished with the awards ceremony at 7 p.m. The 10 students who attended this tournament competed in 11 different categories.

Some of these included extemporaneous speaking, expository, oratory, impromptu and dramatic and humorous interpretation. 

Another popular category is congressional debate, where individuals debate in a large group setting, which models the legislative process of the United States Congress. In this category, JMHS team member, Harry Green, took first place. Green, a senior, is currently ranked number one in the state, based on the number of points he has earned over the course of his debating career. 

When asked what he liked about speech and debate competition, Green said, “It has given me a wide variety of speaking skills. My thoughts have been better collected and I have been able to argue my opinions more effectively.” 

Team member, Rebecca Runnels, a junior, entered in six different events and was awarded the National Forensic League Degree of Honor for the points she earned in the competition. Runnels tied for second place in Duo Interpretation with her partner Bear Schacht and placed third overall in Dramatic Interpretation. 

Andre Green took first place and Catherine Runnels took third place in Expository Speaking, while Matthew Davenport tied for fourth place in Domestic Extemporaneous Speaking. Rose Sartor and Emma Schmidt will take their Duo Interpretation to the State Competition. 

Ilusha Bronisz placed second in two rounds of Humorous Interpretation. The year is winding down, with one more competition Feb. 26, before the final state tournament March 3 in Hobbs.
Speech and debate competition involves many hours of preparation and practice and the travel can cover many miles. This year, the JMHS team will have competed in 10 tournaments, including the state competition and will have traveled from Los Alamos to Taos, and will have traveled six times to Albuquerque and Hobbs. Students who qualify for the national tournament travel to a different location each year.
The team meets for three and a half hours each week and those involved devote untold hours preparing individually. Tournaments are all-day events and sometimes can be two-day affairs. Just as any other team suits up before the competition, so do members of speech and debate teams. 

Instead of athletic attire, their uniforms consist of suit coats and slacks, dress shirts and ties for the gentlemen; and dresses and/or jackets and skirts for the ladies. Members take their “sport” as seriously as any other competitor would.

The teams are registered with the National Forensic League Speech and Debate Honor Society. This not-for-profit organization promotes high school and middle school speech and debate activities as a means to develop a student’s essential life skills and values. 

 The NFL is the oldest and largest interscholastic forensic organization. Students work to perfect their communication, leadership, cognitive and presentational skills as members of the NFL.