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Annual McGovern forensics tourney gets under way today

George McGovern

Mitchell High School will host the George McGovern Forensics Tournament from 1 to 8:30 p.m. Friday and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the high school and Mitchell Middle School.

"Students from about 14 South Dakota schools will attend," MHS debate coach Ron Grimsley said earlier this week. Sadly, one important person won't be there. "This is our 21st year," said Grimsley, the event's head debate coach, "but it will be our first year without George McGovern."

McGovern, who was 90 years old, died Oct. 21, in Sioux Falls, from age-related health issues.

"George" as he was affectionately known to Mitchell locals, served two terms as a congressman and three as a senator, was the Democratic Party's 1972 presidential candidate, and was also a longtime supporter of MHS and Dakota Wesleyan University speech and debate programs.

McGovern frequently recalled his years on the MHS debate team, and especially the time his wife-to-be, Eleanor Stegeberg, and her twin sister, Ila, trounced him and his partner at a Woonsocket debate. In years past, McGovern's busy schedule didn't allow regular attendance at his namesake event, but Grimsley said he attended periodically.

Grimsley, on the other hand, has attended all tournaments to date.

"I was speech coach at Rapid City Stevens High School, for the first three McGovern tournaments and I've been at Mitchell ever since."

The weekend tournament is a sanctioned National Forensic League event. Speech students will participate at various ability levels in: public forum debate; Lincoln-Douglas debate; domestic and international extemporaneous speaking; original oratory; and humorous, serious and duet interpretation.

Event schedules will be posted at the high school and middle school and online at:

"Our tournament staff tries very hard to ensure that all squads in attendance experience a friendly, fair, competitive and educational weekend here in the Corn Palace city. At the McGovern, we try to offer something to please everyone," noted Grimsley on the event website.

Sweepstakes awards will be given to the three highest placing schools in AA and the top two placing schools in A. All final-round competitors in individual events, and all placing teams in debate will receive awards.

Final tournament rounds will start at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Mitchell High School auditorium.