LAHS Hilltalkers compete in National Tournament

The Hilltalkers celebrate their presence at the National Speech and Debate Association National Tournament in Louisville, Ky. First row from left, Philippa Fung, Yunseo Kim, Uxue Sansinena and Talyor Kanzleiter. Back row from left, Luke Favorite, Maximus Posada, Rylee Mechum and Keturah Sherrill. Courtesy/LAPS

Yunseo Kim with Hilltalkers coach Margo Batha, finished 7th out of 235 contestants in the program’s speaking test. This is the best finish the Hilltalkers have ever had in interpretive events. Courtesy/LAHS

LAPS News:

The Los Alamos High School Hilltalkers Speech and The Debate Team is proud to announce the results of their National Speech and Debate competition National tournament of the association from June 11 to 18 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Operators Luke Favorite, Philippa Fung, Taylor Kanzleiter, Yunseo Kim, Rylee Mechum, Maximus Posada, Uxue Sansinena and Keturah Sherrill qualified for participate in the National Tournament at a very high level New Mexico District Competitive Qualifying Tournament in March. Their qualification places them in the top two percent of National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) speakers and debaters.

This year’s tournament was the largest in NSDA history with over 8,500 students participating in the three divisions offered: additional online events, online college and in-person in high school. For additional online events and the School Division in person, students competed throughout the year in one of 111 district tournaments to qualify for Nationals. Schools are allowed a certain number of District Tournament entries. Districts are assigned a number of qualifiers depending on the size of the district and their growth.

The The National Speech & Debate Tournament is the pinnacle of public speaking and is considered the the largest university competition in the country.

The Hilltalkers have participated in the following events: Luke Favorite and Maximus Posada, Improvised Debate; Rylee Mechum and Keturah Sherrill, duo performance; Philippa Fung and Talylor Kanzleiter, Duo Interpretation; Yunseo Kim, Oral Interpretation and Uxue program Sansinena, Lincoln Douglas Debate. Each member of the The Hilltalkers made the most of their time at the tournament by get to know speakers and debaters from around the world United States and enjoying a team dinner with their mates competitors from New Mexico.

After a week of intense competition between more than 5,000 high school students from 1,194 schools, Hilltalker Yunseo Kim finished 7th out of 235 tournament competitors in her program oral performance event (POI). The oral interpretation of the program is based on the performer’s ability to portray a wide range of characters and literature all brought together under one common theme. Each program must contain at least two of the three genres and students are encouraged to include all three. The literature chosen for this event aims to make a interesting argument that is supported in different ways by each selected piece of literature.

Kim’s finish in POI is the strongest finish the Hilltalkers have ever had in acting events.

“I am so honored and grateful to be part of an activity that allows me to find my own voice and share my story,” Kim said. “Beyond the competition, Speech and Debate is a powerful platform it allowed me to listen to other peoples" untold stories and sympathize with their experiences. It was so inspiring to be surrounded by thousands of diverse young students like myself who wishes to raise awareness of the shortcomings of our own country in order to make this world a kinder, brighter and more loving place.

Rising sophomore Uxue Sansinena had a strong finish in her event, Lincoln Douglas Debate, a debate event focused on values. Sansinena finished 42nd out of 246 competitors in Lincoln Douglas Debate.

All the Hilltalkers who attended the tournament agreed that participating in a live, in-person tournament was a big experience after having competed for the last two years in a virtual frame.

“Being able to compete in person was inspiring after two years of virtual competition,” said coach Margo Batha. “The Hilltalkers are so excited to start competing in person in New Mexico in August.

The Hilltalkers would like to thank Sophia Feldman’s family and the Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation and Los Alamos Public Schools for their support in funding this trip. The Hilltalkers would also like to acknowledge the outstanding support of their judging parents and accompanists: Randy Kanzleiter, Hyunjoo Kim, Yongho Kim and Jill Sherrill.

At the ninety-second National Tournament, students debated tough topics spanning trade agreements with Taiwan, civil liberties and environmental issues. Other championship performances ranged from interpreting literature at public address to events where students have a limited time to prepare a speech on a current event in which they participated assigned. “Each year, our national champions prove that students who participate in speaking and debate have a superpower they can use to change the world,” said Executive Director J. Scott Wunn of the National Association of Speech and Debate. “This year, despite a global crisis pandemic, these champions have shown that closed schools can’t stop them from sharing their message. We can’t wait to find out what’s next for these future leaders.

This year’s tournament was the largest in NSDA history with over 8,500 students participating in the three divisions offered: additional online events, online college and in-person in high school. For additional online events and the School Division in person, students competed throughout the year in one of 111 district tournaments to qualify for Nationals. Schools are allowed a certain number of District Tournament entries. Districts are assigned a number of qualifiers depending on the size of the district and their growth.

The National Speech & Debate Tournament is the pinnacle of public speaking and is considered the largest academic competition in the country.

About the National Association of Speech and Debate

The National Speech & Debate Association is the authority on public speaking and debate in the United States. Association builds infrastructure for speech and debate competitions around the world by providing topics, educational resources and training to students and coaches. For nearly 100 years, the National Speech & Debate Association has built a platform for voice of young people which culminates in the National Tournament, the biggest academic competition the world. For more information, visit www.speechanddebate.org.

Rising sophomore Uxue Sansinena finished 42nd out of 246 contestants at the Lincoln Douglas Debate. Courtesy/LAHS

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