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Parker debaters take 2nd at state

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
December 18, 2010
— In its best showing in recent history, Parker High School’s debate team took second at the state tournament last weekend at Ripon College.

The win was something of a surprise.


“We came out better that I think we all hoped we could,” said team member Taylor M. Thomson, a senior.


Thompson’s teammates are Abby Huebner and Ryan Webb, both seniors, and sophomore Grace Bothwell.


Nine teams qualified for state.


Parker posted a 5-3 record at Ripon, and the team came in second to the 6-2 record of Muskego High in the four-person policy debate category. Webb also was named best first-negative speaker.


Coach Brian Devine said he said he knew this year’s team was good. It placed or earned an individual speaker award in all but its first event this fall.


But it wasn’t until the team was practicing just before the state tourney that he saw something special.


“I saw for the first time some truly great debating going on, and that was when I realized we just might be in contention,” Devine said.


Devine credited his team for laying the groundwork in its extensive research and analysis of the material.


This year’s debate topic was “Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reduce its military and/or police presence in one or more of the following: South Korea, Japan, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq, Turkey.”


Two debaters argue in favor of the resolution, basing their arguments on one or two of the countries. The other two take the negative and oppose those arguments. With six possible countries to focus on, the debaters had a lot of research to do.


The debaters said they thoroughly enjoy the competition—the tougher the better.


“It’s the clash. You get really competitive, and when you win it’s the greatest feeling ever,” Bothwell said.


Arguing is frowned on in social settings, but debate gives permission to argue, Thompson said.


When they lose, team members take criticism to heart and correct themselves for the next time around, Devine said.


The last time Parker placed in the Wisconsin State Debate Tournament was when it took fourth in 2006.


Team members said many classmates didn’t even know their school had a debate team until this win. Team members don’t expect to get a lot of attention and don’t seem envious of the enthusiasm that surrounds Parker sports teams.


Devine said while the recognition might not be there now, he has seen how debate has given students an important boost to their future careers. All four team members are considering professions that require logic, judgment and deep thought.


Thompson and Webb look at debate as a stepping stone to careers in law. Huebner said the lawyers in her family insisted she go into debate, although she is thinking of becoming an actuary. Bothwell wants to be a writer.


The team is considering whether to enter the upper Midwest regional competition, which is set for Saturday, Jan. 15 in West Bend.



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