Mitchell’s Gebel takes home state championship at SDHSAA speech and debate tournament

Mitchell’s head coach Madison Miller told the Mitchell Republic ahead of the state tournament that this year had already been one of the program’s most successful.

Joseph Gebel, a senior at Mitchell High School, stands in front of the Corn Palace in July 2021. He won the SDHSAA state championship in international extemporaneous speaking this weekend.
Erik Kaufman / Mitchell Republic

HARRISBURG, S.D. — The Mitchell Kernels speech and debate team is celebrating Joe Gebel this week after he took home a state title at the South Dakota High School Activities Association state debate and individual events tournament on Saturday.

Gebel, a senior who was also named governor of South Dakota’s American Legion Boys State in 2021, placed first out of 17 competitors in international extemporaneous speaking.

Generally referred to as IX, students receive three questions surrounding a wide variety of global political, economic or cultural issues. After being assigned their questions, students have 30 minutes to prepare a speech without the internet. When prep time is up, the student delivers a speech up to seven minutes long that answers the question.

Gebel gave three IX speeches at the tournament, placing first in each round. He beat Aberdeen Central’s Abiah George by just two points.

Though Gebel won Mitchell’s only state title from the tournament, two other Kernels earned recognition for their performances in United States extemporaneous speaking.


After giving three limited-preparation speeches on American political, economic or cultural issues, Mitchell’s Alexis Korzan and Shawn Boehmer advanced to the final round of six competitors.

Korzan placed third in Class AA with 24 points, while Boehmer followed closely behind with 27. Aberdeen Central’s Jordan Phillips took home the championship in that event with a near-perfect 13 points.

Korzan and Boehmer were double-entered into the state tournament, also competing as a team in public forum debate. After competing in five rounds and heading into bracketed octofinals as the ninth-seed, they were eliminated by Brookings’ Aditya Tummala and Alex Shore on a 3-0 decision.

Though typically the state tournament marks the end of the season, three Kernels have already secured their ticket to the National Speech and Debate Association's (NSDA) national tournament in Louisville, Kentucky, in June.

Mitchell High school students Shawn Boehmer (left), Alexis Korzan (center) and Serenity Hollins (right) qualified to the National Speech and Debate Tournament at a qualifier held in Brookings on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022.
Submitted photo

At the South Dakota Northern District's national qualifier, held Feb. 25 and 26 at Brookings High School, Korzan and Boehmer each qualified individually in U.S. extemporaneous speaking and Serenity Hollins qualified in program oral interpretation.

More students will have the opportunity to qualify for nationals at the State Student Congress Qualifiers on March 10, the Big Questions Debate qualifier on March 14 and an NSDA Last Chance qualifier on May 5 through 7.

Mitchell’s head coach Madison Miller told the Mitchell Republic ahead of the state tournament that this year had already been one of the program’s most successful.

“There are no words for how proud I am of my team; there are also no words for how much I admire every single one of them. I am constantly in awe of their bravery to use their voice in such an effective and vibrant way,” Miller said.


All-around team placements

Class AA
State champions: Aberdeen Central (sixth-straight)
Runner-up: Sioux Falls Washington
Third place: Brookings
Fourth place: Sioux Falls O'Gorman
Fifth place: Harrisburg
Sixth place: Sioux Falls Jefferson
Seventh place: Mitchell
Eighth place: Rapid City Stevens
Ninth place: Watertown
10th place: Rapid City Central
11th place: Sioux Falls Lincoln
12th place: Huron
13th place: Brandon Valley
14th place: Yankton

Class A
State champions: Spearfish
Runner-up: Sturgis Brown
Third place: Lennox
Fourth place: Beresford
Fifth place: Milbank
Sixth place: Sioux Falls Christian
Seventh place: Dakota Valley
Eighth place: Tea Area

A South Dakota native, Hunter joined Forum Communications Company as a reporter for the Mitchell (S.D.) Republic in June 2021 and 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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