Top debaters compete at nationals
Rutherford County students are spreading their talents across the country this summer.
Three Chase High School students recently represented the county at the National Forensic League (NFL) National Speech and Debate Tournament. Harley Burgess, Alex Larsen and Angel Proctor, members of the Chase High Speech and Debate team, traveled to Birmingham, Ala. June 16-20 to compete after qualifying during other tournaments throughout the year.
"I'm very proud. Taking three kids to nationals doesn't sound like a whole lot but when you consider that only the top two from the entire western half of the state in each event go, it really is," said J. Patrick Moss, director of forensics and drama at Chase. "Two entries is the biggest we have ever brought. I'm very proud of them, they all worked really hard."
The students competed against hundreds of others in each of their categories. Although they did not make it to the final round, each of them gained experience and had a great time.
Burgess, Chase debate captain, competed in Lincoln-Douglas debate. She was the first student that Moss has had qualify in that category. Burgess competed against over 200 other debate students in six guaranteed rounds.
"It was different competing against all of the different debaters from across the country. I did better than most. I don't think I was ranked near the top, but I was near the middle," Burgess said. "The competitors, they had sort of the same style as I do, but some of them were on a whole different level. I actually competed against a guy who was in finals and placed second overall."
Burgess said her favorite part of the experience was getting her own national tournament competitor ribbon.
"I got to wear it the entire weekend. They all make fun of me because I've always watched the final rounds and all the competitors have these little ribbons and I thought they were only for final competitors. Then I got there and I got this little ribbon and it made me feel so good," Burgess said.
Since she will be a senior next year, Burgess hopes to bring some of the techniques she learned while at nationals back to her fellow debaters at Chase for the upcoming competition season.
"There's a reason why I named Harley captain her junior year. It's because she is bar none one of the best leaders I've ever had period," Moss said. "I look forward to her continuing not only her streak of victories, but also her ability to lead and to take new kids under her wing and show them the ropes."
On the other hand, Larsen and Proctor, who competed in Duo Interpretation, both recently graduated from Chase. The two were the 2013 State Champions in Duo Interpretation during the Tarheel Forensic League's North Carolina State Championship Tournament and also competed against over 200 other duo teams at nationals.
"It was fun. We got down there and started competing and it was like the best of the best from around the country," Larsen said. "I was nervous going in because I didn't really know what to expect. But then we got there and it was kind of like a normal tournament but it was on a really big scale and I could tell everyone was really good."
"It was a lot of fun, we definitely saw a lot of different styles from all over the United States which was really cool. There's a lot of different blocking and choreography that I've never seen before," Proctor said. "It was really exciting and we met some people from Puerto Rico and all over the world."
Larsen and Proctor have only been Duo Interpretation partners for a few months, but they have excelled at many tournaments. Larsen originally began his speech and debate career in Lincoln-Douglas debate, but switched to Duo Interpretation when Proctor needed a new partner. This was Larsen's first trip to a national competition.
"I thought we did great, for me I've been doing this for a few months. I felt pretty good competing with all of these good people who have been doing this for four years. There's even some middle schools that have these speech and debate programs so they may have been doing it for seven or eight years," Larsen said. "I looked back at rankings, we did better than around 100 teams that were there, like right in the middle of the pack."
Proctor, who has broken all of the NFL point records for Chase, had been to nationals before where she competed in Humorous Interpretation. She said she was proud of Larsen's performance and enjoyed having a partner to share the experience.
"He's a really great duo partner and I really enjoyed working with him," Proctor said. "My favorite part was the first round because the adrenaline and the energy that was pumping through everybody was spectacular. We could all feel it."
Moss said that Larsen and Proctor will be missed on the team, but he hopes they will continue to use their talents and become judges.
"I will miss them. Angel, without a doubt, her record is the best in history. No one has ever gotten as many points as she has. Alex was a late show, but in him you have a guy who crossed over from debate into speech and excelled at both," Moss said. "What Alex and Angel aren't bringing back as students, they will bring back as judges."