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Park City High School students qualify for national debate tournament

Left to right: McNeil Moreno, Noah Canada, Zach Watkins, Zach Minter
Left to right: McNeil Moreno, Noah Canada, Zach Watkins, Zach Minter

Debate is one of Park City High School's highest-achieving activities. The team often sends students to national competitions and this year is no different.

Four students from the school qualified for the National Speech and Debate Association tournament; Noah Canada, McNeil Moreno, Zack Minter and Zach Watkins. It’s scheduled to take place in Phoenix and Mesa, Arizona, June 11-16.

The students qualified for Nationals by competing against students around the state in the district tournament March 4-5 at Rowland Hall in Salt Lake City.

Moreno said he started debate on a dare from his younger brother.

“That's actually a really funny story. So when I started out in high school, I mostly did track and cross country. And my little brother had all the book smarts, so he did debate. And last year, we thought it'd be a little funny if we dared each other to switch sports. So this is my first year of doing debate. And he did his first year of track last year. And I really wasn't expecting to, like, do a whole lot. But I figured if it's my first and last year, I might as well give it my all, and have some fun because my brother obviously enjoys it so much , so why can't I.”

Moreno competes in HI, or humorous interpretation. That’s a form of debate where students pick a play, short story, or other humorous published work and perform a portion of it. These usually run 10 minutes.

For the district tournament, he took the video game route.

“So I did a video game surprisingly, called Portal 2. And I just took the dialogue of a certain character, Cave Johnson, who is a founder and CEO of a science company. And he slowly goes insane, because he's a little too passionate, but not knowing about what science is. And that was my moral of the story. Don't be caught up in passion.”

Watkins on the other hand competes in two styles of debate; public forum and extemporaneous speaking. He qualified for Nationals in the public forum category.

Watkins explained that this form of debate is what most people think of when they hear the word debate.

“So public forum is two-on-two evidence debate, and the whole point of it is to be accessible to the public. So it's essentially what everyone perceives debate to be. It's a good combination of like technical debate, and also being able to communicate with the common person and persuade them, and then it's about any variety of topics, they change every month.”

Unlike Moreno who only had one piece of work to perform to qualify for nationals, Watkins had to go through many rounds.

“We had four pre-elimination rounds, and we won all of them. And then we had a quarterfinals round, which we won, and then a semi-final round. And we actually went undefeated, all those. So we got first at the tournament and qualified.”

The team will compete in tournaments to prepare for nationals. One of those is the state tournament which is taking place March 10-11 at Hillcrest High School in Midvale.