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Speech, debate students hit virtual stride

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The high school speech and debate teams in Francis Howell School District are thriving this year despite COVID-19 challenges. Students in all three  high schools qualified for the Missouri State High School Athletics Association State Speech and Debate Tournament, which will be held virtually April 23-24.

It’s the first time in history Central High has qualified debaters for the state tournament and the first time in 10 years that a student from Howell High has qualified. 

State qualifiers include Howell High junior Elliott Burchett, Central High senior; Jackson Ford, North High junior Carly Gordon, North High senior Marcus Otto, Central High senior Jack Schriber and North High freshman Hailey Zhang. 

“Our entire season has been virtual, and all of us coaches have been so proud and amazed by how adaptable the students have been,” Theresa Maher, assistant speech and debate coach at Howell High, said. “There is truly no stopping them.”

Central High senior Lauren Guth said, “This year with COVID has certainly been unique, with the biggest change being our participation in virtual tournaments. Every competition we’ve had this year has been online; debate rounds usually take place live over Zoom, and oftentimes speech events can be pre-recorded and judged asynchronously.”

Guth was grateful to have the opportunity to compete during her senior year.

“It gives me the opportunity to speak and learn about a myriad of unique topics,” Guth said. “Sooner or later I’ll have to interview for an important job or give a big presentation, and I know my experience in Speech and Debate will help me effectively articulate my thoughts.”

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