The Vermillion Debate Team took its third straight overall sweepstakes trophy this past weekend at the Lewis & Clark Debate Tournament in Yankton.
Prior to this, it won sweepstakes at the Lincoln Silver Bowl, which was held Jan. 14-15 in Sioux Falls, and at the Watertown High School Fiesta on Jan. 21-22.
�We�ve just had a very solid showing across the board,� said debate coach Bob Trzynka. �The Vermillion team has for the most part either won every tournament or has been the runner-up at every tournament this year. In fact, in the last three tournaments in a row we�ve been champion.�
The team has won the Mitchell High School Tournament and second place at the Brookings High School Tournament and the Sioux Falls Roosevelt Tournament.
The team also has won victories in several divisions, including Robert Erikson in JV Lincoln-Douglas debate, Chelsea Gilbertson in Novice Lincoln-Douglas debate and Joe Miller in Novice Extemporaneous Speaking. Anna Hackemer and Sowmya Ragothaman were named runners-up in Novice Policy debate.
Several Vermillion debaters also were awarded prizes for the top overall speakers in their respective divisions, with Epiphany Knedler winning top speaker at the Lincoln Silver Bowl for top JV Policy Debater and Anna Hackemer won top speaker at the Brookings High School Tournament for Novice Policy debate.
�We�re very competitive, across the board,� Trzynka said. �On a sweepstakes level, they divide it between AA and A, but beyond that, until the state championships, we compete with AA schools as well as A schools. We�ve been very competitive at that level. �
�This year we had a really good turnout for the team,� he said. �Typically, in years past we�ve had eight to 12 members, and we�re regularly turning out 20 members to each of the tournaments now.�
These wins are especially rewarding because a number of key team members graduated last year.
�They had kind of dominated the circuit over a number of years, and so that loss really hurt us from the standpoint of getting points for the overall team,� Trzynka said. �But the team as a whole has really made up for it, so the fact that we�re continuing to have a lot of success really points to the work and effort that the folks who are on the team have really worked to fill in that gap.�
Several of the debate students said they enjoy participating because it helps them in their research skills, critical thinking and public speaking.
Policy debater Epiphany Knedler said she likes the speed at which her event takes place.
�You have to think quickly,� she said. �I love it.�
Freshman Robert Erikson said he chose to participate in Lincoln-Douglas debate because �I enjoyed the philosophy and I wasn�t particularly good at speed reading.�
Junior Lincoln-Douglas debater Jenny Sun added, �I was always interested in philosophy, even in eighth grade. And so, when I heard about Lincoln-Douglas I was just really fascinated by it. There was no question about what I was going to do.�
Soon the Vermillion team will compete at a tournament Harrisburg, which will lead into the Rushmore District Qualifier Tournament, which will decide which South Dakota students will compete in this year�s national debate tournament.
�You send a limited number of teams to the national tournament every year, so this year I think we�ll be sending a total of two policy teams for the southern half of the state, and I think two or three Lincoln-Douglas debaters,� Trzynka said.
The Vermillion team has had at least one national qualifier for the past few years.
�We�re hopeful for this year, but we also realize it�s going to be an uphill struggle for us to get a national qualifier. But nonetheless, that�s our goal,� Trzynka said. �It�s a building year, but we�ve had a lot of success, and I feel really good about us going forward.�