Senior places at national debate tournament

By Anahita Hurt, Online Co-Editor

Senior Vera Petrović won a first place speaker award at the National Speech and Debate Association’s national tournament in June.

She competed with the East Kansas Red team in Worlds Schools Debate and was surprised by the honor.

“I thought they made a mistake,” Petrović said about her award. “I was so scared. I was on the stage, and I was like, ‘I’m about to kill my teacher,’ like ‘he made a mistake.’ I was so scared. It was kind of crazy.”

Petrović’s team made it to the octo-finals, three rounds before finals, before getting eliminated. There were 179 teams competing in World Schools debate, with 817 students total.

“[World Schools Debate] is pretty abstract — I don’t know, it’s kind of hard to explain,” she said. “It pulls together a bunch of different elements of debate, like policy debate and Douglas debate and you get different topics for each round. And then you and two other people from your team take turns giving speeches and you can stand up in the middle of other people’s speeches and interrupt them, so it’s a very lively, vibrant form of debate.”

More than 8,000 people attended the tournament, including students, teachers and coaches from across the nation.

“It was a lot of kids, because it’s the national tournament for forensics, so you have kids competing in a multitude of different disciplines,” Petrović said. “In Worlds Schools, I think we had 800 kids competing, and those 800 kids were divided into teams of about five or six. So you were competing with a team, but you were still ranked individually based on speaking. And then you have a bunch of other events that were going on too, like acting and debate events too.”

Senior Haylee Rose and alumnae Chisato Kimura also attended the national tournament with the East Kansas teams. They began prepping in April and competed in June.

“We had to go to a tryout in March that year and we just had to give practice speeches and record ourselves and send them to judges,” Petrović said. “We meet about twice a week and we would go to different schools around East Kansas. So we’d have practice session at Shawnee Mission East, or other schools, we had one here I think. We would just do a bunch of practice rounds. We had to do research because half of them are research and prepare, and the other half the topics are impromptu, so we had to research for the ones we knew about.”

Reflecting back, it was a good experience for Petrović, but in the moment, she was petrified.

“It was both terrifying and amazing, I think,” Petrović said. “When they called my name I sort of blacked out, I didn’t hear anything, and then I started crying. It was really one of the happiest moments of my life, and not because of a trophy, but because I love debate, and I love argumentation, and it was this beautiful culmination of an activity that is so important to me.”