Novice SPASH Debaters Take State Championship
By Brandi Makuski
Newcomers to the SPASH debate team made their way to this year’s state tournament — and came home with the top trophy.
A total of 10 debaters from the high school competed against more than a dozen other school teams during the Wisconsin State Debate Tournament at West Bend High School Jan. 21-22. Six of those participants were novices.
“Varsity did very well also, but didn’t make it into the final rounds,” said head coach Lee Bendtsen. “We had two teams make it to the semi-finals, and one team make it to finals — and they won the whole thing.”
Bendtsen said the SPASH Debate Club is comprised of five teams of two, who are assigned a style of debate — formats include policy, Lincoln/Douglas, public forum or student congress — then study and prepare their arguments.
The topic this year involved whether or not to increase diplomatic or economic relations with China.
Senior Jonathon Tolbert summarized his first year on the team as an eye-opener.
“I’ve always wanted to join; my schedule never fit until this year,” said Tolbert, 18. “When I first came into it, I thought it was going to be really polarizing, but it’s a little more complicated than that.”
Tolbert, who plans to attend UW-Oshkosh after graduation, said his favorite part of debate is “running the disadvantage”, and coyly added the hardest part of debate was “eating, sleeping and getting to your match on time.”
“There’s always two sides to an argument,” he said. “Debate is very broad and there’s a lot more to it than you’d think,” he said. “But it’s never too late to start; stick with it and really try. Don’t just give up when things get hard.”
Tolbert’s performance is notable, according to Bendtsen, because for most of the season, he was a competing with the school’s cross-country team and unable to attend debate practice.
“Despite that, he earned a fourth-place speaker award,” Bendsten said.
Bendtsen also pointed to the “incredible dedication and hard work” of team member Madison Eggers, who is now the sixth best varsity debate speaker in the entire State of Wisconsin.
“It’s quite amazing because she was up against students who had been debating two, three years already, and this is only her first year,” Bendtsen said.
Bendsten added without the hard work of assistant debate coach Joe Klopotek, the team might not have performed so well.
“He’s the one coaching them; it’s really his team,” Bendsten said.
Varsity debaters are Nolan Ganser, Madison Eggers, Emily Johnston and Ella Swiston. The novice team included Kayla Van Asten, Sarah Kim, Jonathon Tolbert, Grayson Brandl, Bergen Jackson and Zachary Stremer.