Oregon City speech, debate team excels at state tournament
Although sports were suspended during the pandemic, "people can always argue with each other online," said David Barringer, speech/debate coach at Oregon City High School.
During that time, "the debate community adapted, and we were able to attend online tournaments, so we had a busy season for the 2020/21 school year, even while we were teaching remotely," he added.
On April 22 and 23, eight students on the OCHS team participated in the return of an in-person state tournament at Western Oregon University in Monmouth.
"We had a very high success rate. At state, Rachel Warner made it to the semifinals in Informative Speaking and Radio Commentary, and Brianna Nizic made it to the semifinals in Programmed Oral Interpretation. Evelyn Faulkner, Delaney McFarland and Lauren Brenner made it all the way to finals in Poetry, Programmed Oral Interpretation and Extemporaneous Speaking, respectively," Barringer said.
Brenner also made it to finals in Lincoln-Douglas Debate and is now ranked No. 2 in the state, he said.
She is a freshman, "which makes her performance at state all the more exciting. The topic she debated was Resolved: In a democracy, a free press ought to prioritize objectivity over advocacy," Barringer said.
Barringer has taught English at OCHS since 2004; he has been the speech/debate coach since 2005.
Although teaching English remotely was difficult, coaching speech online was "surprisingly successful," he said.
"A lot of kids were hungry for the opportunity to talk and interact that they weren't getting from their regular classes, and we actually had a robust and thriving team," Barringer added.
He is already looking ahead to competitions next year, and hopes more students realize the benefits of being on a speech/debate team.
"One of the best benefits is being able to organize your thoughts well and to clearly communicate," Barringer said.
He noted that a former student who visited him after his first year of college told Barringer that all the students in his college engineering course had to make presentations as a final project.
"Many of the students lived up to the engineering stereotype about being better with computers and numbers than with people, and the presentations were subpar. When my former student presented, the teacher actually stopped the class and said, 'Did everyone just see what Tim did? That's what I want to see.'"
The young man had been on the OCHS debate team and organized his presentation like a debate case: analyzing a problem and proposing a solution.
"Those skills he practiced at tournaments turned into abilities that set him apart from his classmates in many areas outside speech and debate," Barringer said.
He added that there are financial benefits to being on a speech/debate team as well. Many colleges are looking for academic extracurriculars, and students who can list something other than sports gain a competitive edge in admissions, and they can earn scholarships as well.
But the bottom line is that "going to tournaments is a blast. They're definitely the highlight of being on the team, and students get a real sense of accomplishment and team bonding," Barringer said, adding that the OCHS team is "a warm, welcoming, positive group of people."
High school can be a struggle even in the best of times, he said, noting that "these past two years have definitely not been the best of times. This team builds incredible bonds and supports students, while also challenging them in ways many other courses or events do not."
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