GBHS Debate sweeps 2022 Novice Stampede in Garden City


The Great Bend High School novice debating team traveled to Garden City on Saturday for the opening weekend of the competition season.

All aboard

The sleek white Panther Activity Bus pulled up just before 5am on Saturday morning. A large group of sleepy but excited young panthers had gathered outside the GBHS for the two-hour hike to Garden City on the opening weekend of debate season. Fourteen novice debaters loaded their laptops and file cases onto the bus and prepared to face their first political debate competitors from Garden City, Dodge City and Liberal, Hugoton and Ottawa.

As a thunderstorm ravaged the town of Great Bend on Saturday night, our young western debaters lashed out at the competition. By 7:00 p.m. Saturday night, the storms had passed and the Panther debating team returned home with an overall record of 16 wins and 5 losses and five of the top six.

2022-23 National Debate Topic

“Resolved: The federal government of the United States should significantly increase its security cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in one or more of the following areas: artificial intelligence, biotechnology, cybersecurity.”

As part of the 2022-2023 national debate theme, students will learn about emerging technologies and how these advances in artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and cybersecurity may impact United States participation in NATO. Students will explore how the world is changing rapidly and how new technologies pose many security risks and opportunities for the United States and the other 29 NATO countries.

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“The topic is very complicated, especially for the younger students. It’s really almost two issues combined into one,” said coach Kim Heath. “The learning curve for understanding new technology and global geopolitics has been quite steep, and I’m so proud of the debaters for the hard work they all put into their first month of school.”

“Angels on the Shoulders”

Each team debated five rounds, but in the first two rounds they received help from the experienced debaters. Known as the “Angel on your Shoulder” experience, this tournament style allows students to get a feel for the flow of a debate round on both the positive and negative side without the pressure of being judged.

Serving as angels for the Panther debaters were seniors Alondra Alvarez, Maddix Pokorski, and Xanna Smith, junior Thomas Henrikson, and sophomores Analeah Ochs and Lea Nokes.

“Again and again, debaters commented on how much they learned from the older students,” Heath said. “Not only has it helped build our team’s unity and morale, but the experienced debaters have been invaluable to our newcomers as well.”

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After the two opening rounds of “Angels,” the novices competed in three rounds without help, and the experienced students became judges.

Panthers dominate

Only four teams in the tournament achieved a perfect 3-0 record that day. And three of those teams were GBHS Panthers.

Freshmen Ellie Damm and Kaylee Haag remained undefeated and scored perfect speaker points. They defeated Liberal, Ottawa and Dodge City teams on their way to first place.

Senior Gavin Hirsh and freshman Hannah Hopkins finished second. They won all of their rounds, beating teams from Ottawa, Hugoton and Garden City.

Newcomers Rhys Froetschner and Quinton Heath also remained undefeated and took third place. They won debates with the Liberal, Garden City and Dodge City.

Sophomore Anna Bitter and freshman Zachary Hart finished 5th overall. They beat Ottawa and Garden City but came close to defeating Liberal.

Sophomores Ailey Williams and Danica Cline lost to Garden City but came back in 6th place with wins against another Garden City team and a Dodge City team.

Sophomore Jay Creamer and junior Theo Hopkinson-Smith finished 9th with wins over teams from Garden and Dodge and one loss to Liberal.

Keaton Kruckenberg and Jennifer Palacio beat a team from Liberal but lost their rounds to Ottawa and Garden City.

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“Having our beginners win so many laps while learning the activity was a great start to the season. I’m looking forward to a fantastic year,” said Heath. “Obviously I’m happy to receive so many individual awards, but seeing the team working together and supporting each other was the best part of the tournament. I’m so proud of our team.”

On to Halstead, then home

The Panther debate next travels to Halstead this Saturday, September 24th for a competition featuring both novice and open divisions.

The squad will host their first home tournament on October 1st at the GBHS. Coach Heath welcomes anyone with an interest in debate, technology, or politics to volunteer to be a judge.

“Judging a debate may sound intimidating, but you really don’t have to have been a debater to be a good judge,” she said. “One of the most important skills we teach is learning to adapt to your audience. An open mind and a willingness to help children develop their speaking and listening skills is all it takes to be a good judge.”

Anyone interested in judging for the October 1 Panther Debate tournament can email Kim Heath at [email protected]



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