Speech and Debate Programs Grow Districtwide; Students in All Three Programs Qualify for State

Posted on 03/12/2021

The high school Speech and Debate teams in Francis Howell School District are thriving this year, despite COVID-19 challenges. Students in all three programs – Francis Howell Central (FHC), Francis Howell High (FHHS) and Francis Howell North (FHN) – qualified for the MSHSAA State Speech and Debate Tournament, which will be held virtually April 23-24.

It’s the first time in history FHC has qualified debaters for the state tournament and the first time in 10 years that a student from FHHS qualified. The coaches say there has been a noticeable increase in involvement in the programs the past four years.

State qualifiers include Elliott Burchett, FHHS junior; Jackson Ford, FHC senior; Carly Gordon, FHN junior; Marcus Otto, FHN senior; Jack Schriber, FHC senior; and Hailey Zhang, FHN freshman.

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

Speech and Debate Teams

“This year with COVID has certainly been unique, with the biggest change being our participation in virtual tournaments,” said Lauren Guth, FHC senior. “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.”

One highlight from this season, which began in October, was the February Fulton Novice Tournament.

“The tournament was just a small fragment of the kids’ success,” said Maher. “It’s notable because all three schools competed and all three schools had a significant number of individual winners.”

“I'm grateful to still have the opportunity to compete during my senior year,” Guth said. “It gives me the opportunity to speak and learn about a myriad of unique topics. 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.”

The Speech and Debate head coaching staff is made up of Sheri Baize (FHC), Jen Beckmann-Brown (FHHS) and Randy Pierce (FHN).

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