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MHS team places 53rd at national debate contest

Mitchell High School students Mason Wenzel and Luke Bartl placed 53rd out of 284 teams in the public forum debate at The National Speech and Debate Tournament hosted by East Kansas and Three Trails Districts June 15-20 in Overland Park, Kan.

The MHS debate team sent a record-high five students to The National Speech and Debate Tournament, also known as the National Forensics League.

Each event has around 200 entrees; public forum is the largest, MHS debate head coach Ron Grimsley said. The students go through three preliminary rounds, then are cut down to the top 75 in each debate event. Ryan Solberg competed in the foreign extemporaneous speaking competition, and Landon Pooley and A.J. Krumholz each competed in the student congress event.

It is the third consecutive year Wenzel has qualified for the national tournament. His sophomore and junior years, Wenzel competed in extemporaneous speaking. Wenzel and Bartl embraced the high-caliber competition at the national level in forum debate, despite participating in that event for the first time.

"It was interesting for sure," Wenzel said. "It was a lot more challenging than expected, but luckily we put in enough work to take on that level of competition."

In public forum, a two-person team speaks on one topic for 45 minutes. Wenzel said their topic was whether the North American Treaty Organization, or NATO, should strengthen its relationship with Ukraine in order to deter further aggression from Russia. He and Bartl knew their debate topic a month before the national tournament.

Wenzel said it was the first time he got to participate in the national tournament with Bartl, his good friend since middle school, and noted camaraderie runs strong among the group.

"It's been a fun group. I really enjoyed the people who went this year," Wenzel said. "We had a good time for sure."

Next season, Solberg, Pooley and Krumholz plan to return for another year of high school debate.

"They already have a good track record," Grimsley said. "Next year will be an even better year for them."