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Aberdeen Central’s Phillips wins national speech championship with Mitchell’s Gebel taking seventh

Mitchell head coach Madison Miller said the trip to Kentucky was the team's first appearance at the national tournament since 2019.

Aberdeen Central's Jordan Phillips, left, and Mitchell's Joe Gebel, right, pose for a photo with their awards at the National Speech and Debate Tournament held June 12-17 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Submitted photos
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LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — South Dakota had a strong showing at the National Speech and Debate Tournament last week, with a national champion hailing from Aberdeen and a Kernel finishing in seventh.

Outspeaking 249 competitors from across the United States, Aberdeen Central’s Jordan Phillips took home the championship trophy in extemp commentary — an event in which students, broken into groups of six, are given 20 minutes to prepare and orate a five-minute speech on a randomly selected topic from a range of societal, political, historic or popular interest prompts.

Mitchell’s Joe Gebel — who in March was crowned South Dakota’s state champion in a similar limited-preparation speaking event — was entered into the same event as Phillips and fell just short of breaking into the final round, ending at seventh-best in the nation.

Mitchell's speech and debate team poses for a photo at a local attraction during their trip to the National Speech and Debate Tournament in Louisville, Kentucky, which ran June 12-17.
Submitted photo

On the score sheet, Gebel ranked higher than Phillips in prelim rounds, earning top ranks in his room of six in each of the first three rounds. In rounds four through six, each of which had three judges individually issuing a ranked order of their rooms, Phillips snuck ahead of Gebel in the rankings, scoring an average rank of 1.8 across nine ballots to Gebel’s average of two.

Extemp commentary is a supplemental event offered to competitors who did not advance from prelim rounds in their main events.


Mitchell’s first trip to nationals since 2019

Back in-person for the first time since 2019, this year’s trip to Kentucky was the Kernels’ first competition at the National Speech and Debate Tournament since before the pandemic.

“Due to the pandemic, this was our team’s first time attending the national tournament in two years,” said Madison Miller, head coach of Mitchell’s speech and debate team. “No one, not even our seniors, had ever physically been to a national tournament, so it was a formidable and important learning experience for all.”

In main events, Gebel competed in international extemp, a limited-preparation speech competition where students must speak on global issues, while Shawn Boehmer and Alexis Korzan competed in domestic extemp, speaking on issues more pertinent to the United States.

Though no students advanced to elimination rounds in their main events, Boehmer competed in a supplemental expository event, while Korzan competed in impromptu speaking. Iris Anderson and Liam Semmler joined Boehmer and Korzan in expository, while Kennedy Lofgren and Keatyn Wede competed in Prose.

Jordan Phillips, center left, poses for a photo with Aberdeen Central speech and debate coaches Kerry Konda and Mariah William.
Submitted photo

Phillips named runner-up for National Student of the Year

Beyond Phillips’ championship in extemp commentary, she also was named a national runner-up for the National Student of the Year award.

Each year, students in each of the National Speech and Debate Association’s 111 districts are nominated by coaches for the award, meant to recognize a student who best represents the six facets of the association’s code of honor: humility, equity, integrity, respect, leadership and service.

Kerry Konda, head coach of the Golden Eagles speech and debate team, shared his pride with the Mitchell Republic.


“Jordan Phillips has taken her skills learned in speech and debate to make our community a better place to live,” Konda said. “She is a testament to the life altering power of speech and debate. I am so proud of her accomplishments that have helped make our community better.”

A South Dakota native, Hunter joined Forum Communications Company as a reporter for the Mitchell (S.D.) Republic in June 2021. After over a year in Mitchell, he moved to Milwaukee, where he now works as a digital reporter for Forum News Service, focusing on regional news that impacts the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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