Five EHS students qualified to compete in the tournament. Seniors David Wickard and Maggie Parra were awarded second place in the public forum category. Senior Kunal Patel, junior Kelsey Maher and freshman Kathryn Bulanek also competed.
“It’s really difficult to be in that top tier of debaters,” said Chris McDonald, director of debate activities for EHS.
McDonald noted that EHS students debate in one of the most competitive districts in the country.
But, with their recent success at the state tournament, Eagan’s debaters have proven they’re up to the challenge. This weekend, they’ll attend the Southern Minnesota National Forensic League District Tournament, where they will compete to qualify for the Lincoln Financial Group/National Forensic League National Speech & Debate Tournament, which will take place in June.
“I think our team will do quite well,” said McDonald.
The EHS team has competed in the national tournament every year for the last decade. Eagan’s debate team is one of largest in the country, with 72 members and eight coaches. They came in ninthin the country in policy debate last year and were ranked 10th nationally in public forum debate three years ago. Eagan was home to the national champion in Lincoln-Douglas debate in 2000.
This success doesn’t come without commitment. State competitor Kunal Patel estimated that he spends upwards of 20 hours every week on debate. The team travels across the country throughout the season, to compete in various tournaments. Some students even attend summer camps devoted to debate.
“You get to know a really close group of friends,” said Patel.
Debate team members also learn a unique set of skills that prepare them for the collegiate and professional worlds.
“Debate probably provides the greatest arena for honing critical thinking skills,” said McDonald. “It also provides students with accelerated research skills.”
McDonald noted that the behaviors competitors learn in debate benefits students who pursue careers in law and medicine. State runner-up David Wickard said debate opened his eyes to the world of politics and taught him how to adapt to a wide variety of different conversational situations.
“I’ve learned to think on my feet,” said Wickard.