Debate to States
First year Debate team members not only find their way to States, but to first place.
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Before they filled a room cluttered with several other debaters, arguing their way to a win with logic and evidence, the Biddeford High School Debate Team didn’t exist until one year ago.
The firey passion that seems to light the debaters was lit by Debate club adviser and English teacher, Veronica Foster. As this is her first year as the advisor and the first year for the club as a whole, she feels she learns just as much as the students.
“I had a group of students approach me last year,” said Foster. “We do a lot of debate in English class, and they said that they were interested in starting a Debate club, and would I be the adviser. I said yes without having any idea what was involved in debate.”
The seven-member team may seem small, but the dedication they share is quite large. Among these members are sophomore Maggie Behen, sophomore Alyssa Landry, junior Adric Garnett, and junior Peyton McKeown. Each member finds their weekends are filled with arguments.
“I didn’t realize schools with established teams will go to debate tournaments every Saturday for the entire season,” said Foster. “[The season] runs roughly from October to the end of January. So, it’s a huge commitment.”
When she found her way to States’, Behen felt the long days of debating were worth the experience she received from every round she went through.
“The type of debate that we do is public forum,” said Behen. “You have a resolution for the month, and you have to write speeches going in from both sides, and then you find out in a coin flip which number speaker you’ll be and which side you’ll be debating in the round.”
In the public forum style of debate, the debaters typically have a partner. Sophomore Alyssa Landry partners up with Behen for their debates on several topics over their season.
“So you have your topic, and it’s the topic for the whole month,” said Landry. “You research a lot about it and you come up with specific contentions that support your specific side. So, you have to research and put in a lot of evidence from very reliable sources.”
At the State meet, lasting almost 14 hours, Behen and Landry spent the day debating military spending and whether the cost should get increased or not. They went through seven rounds, lasting about 50 minutes each. Each round they debated in, the judge flipped a coin to decide which side of the argument they were to debate on.
Your pro-arguments are going to be a lot stronger because debate is a lot about weighing things, said Landry. “You can weight the importance of a human life over money, so that’s a pretty solid argument compared to con.”
For Foster, her experience at States differed a bit from her students experience. Instead of waiting for the students to finish, she judged other debates.
“I was judging varsity rounds,” said Foster. “[They’re] the smartest kids I have ever seen, which is really exciting because you know our kids are going to be there at some point.”
After waiting two hours to hear the final decision of the judges to see who won States, the anticipation felt within the team seemed to strengthen as they got closer to the news.
“The top five get called up, and they knew they were in the top two because they made it into finals,” said Foster. “We were all waiting for them to announce second place, and when they didn’t hear their name, they got this huge smile on their face, and they were beaming, and everyone was clapping.”
This win came with a lot of hard work. Especially since a debate team never existed at Biddeford. Behen feels she went into this experience blindfolded.
“Having it been the first year that our schools has even a team go to States, and a debate team in general, we didn’t really know what we were going into,” said Behen. “There was nobody to say ‘oh, this is what to expect,’ it was like we were just thrown to the wolves.”
Since they were “thrown to the wolves,” Behen figured out how to approach every debate she encounters.
“You have to be open-minded,” said Behen. “You can’t go thinking ‘I view this and only this is the right way’ because you could be arguing the other side and you have to have the same strength of both sides of the argument.”
Even though they didn’t have any past Biddeford debaters to consult, with Behen and Landry’s winning streak at every debate prior to States, Foster knew they had a shot.
“States was really exciting because of that,” said Foster. “We knew they had a shot.”
While the debate season is nearly over, they were luckily able to make their mark in the debate world. They argued their way to the top, and the possibilities for next season are wide open.