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Debating duo take their act

Kingston High School’s senior Frank and sophomore Mitch Murdock aren’t average teenage boys.

Instead of spending their time making weekend plans, texting or hanging out, the Murdock brothers dedicate hours to reading newspapers, philosophy, law and foreign policy journals and the CIA World Fact Book.

They research topics like: “Should corporations be held to the same moral standards as individuals?”

The brothers are members of the KHS speech and debate team, which means acquiring worldly knowledge is their life.

“I really enjoy the process of researching and finding out about an issue and convincing another I’m right,” said Frank, who researches three hours a day.

Mitch spends four hours a day with his nose in the books.

And the research paid off, as both brothers qualified and competed in Lincoln Douglas debate at the 3A speech and debate state tournament last weekend in Gig Harbor and at Pacific Lutheran University.

Lincoln Douglas debate is a one-on-one value debate and rounds usually last 45 minutes. A topic is provided two months in advance. This year’s state topic was, “Resolved: Hate crime enhancements are unjust in the United States.”

Although neither boy advanced to the finals round at state, the debating dynamites are among the top 16 3A debaters in Washington. They have several honors and accomplishments to be proud of, in addition to enhancing Kingston’s first year speech and debate program.

“It’s a blessing that we have them,” said speech and debate coach Deborah MacKinnon. “It has excited the building about debate. Eight other members joined (the team), which is exceptional for a first-year program that has no debate class.”

Among the eight, five earned their National Forensics League membership. NFL is the national speech and debate honor society. Earning NFL membership in a single year is no easy feat, as a total of 25 NFL points are needed for membership. One to three points are earned for each round of competition and approximately six points are earned for winning a tournament.

MacKinnon said the team either had to attend a lot of tournaments or preform really well at a few tournaments. Kingston’s team chose to perform well and MacKinnon is thrilled.

“I’m exceptionally pleased with the season,” she said. “We have a lot of talent on our team.”

She said pre-registration numbers suggest the possibility of an official speech and debate class at Kingston next year.

Frank has earned more than 1,000 NFL points. He’s an NFL Academic All-American, and at the end of January he was the only Washington NFL Academic All-American this year.

“I’ll be forever indebted to Frank,” MacKinnon said. “This is what all other debaters should aspire to be. It sets a very impressive standard of scholarship.”

Mitch is also making waves in debate. As a sophomore he currently has 982 NFL points, which earns him the second highest NFL recognition, Outstanding Distinction.

“It’s amazing,” MacKinnon said of Mitch’s accomplishments.

In order to reach this level of academic scholarship the Murdock brothers live, breathe and eat speech and debate.

When Frank begins researching for an upcoming tournament he just disappears.

“I’ll completely immerse myself in a topic for weeks,” Frank said. “That’s the only thing I’ll think about.”

It’s the same for Mitch.

He said his time spent researching is “really, really, grueling.”

There’s even times after he’s in bed that Mitch will get up, flip the lights on and and cram in a little extra “highlighting.”

“Sometimes before a really important tournament I get so panicked,” Mitch said. “One night I printed off the entire CIA World Fact book and was half way through the A’s before my mom took it from me.”

The CIA World Fact book is an extensive collection of economic, geographical, historical and governmental information about every country.

Frank hopes to attend the University of Pennsylvania on an ROTC scholarship to study chemical engineering. Mitch still has a few more years to decide on a college, but said he’d like to study international relationships and global studies. But before all that, Mitch will compete in the state individual’s tournament this weekend for impromptu and extemporaneous speaking and at the national tournament in June for international extemporaneous speaking.

“I’d like to make the semifinal round at nationals,” Mitch said. “That’d be really cool, but really hard.”

Donations are needed to raise money to send Mitch to nationals. MacKinnon said a goal of $1,000 has been set and thus far $700 has been raised.

Donations may be made to the Kingston High School Debate Club, KHS 26201 Siyaya Avenue NE Kingston, WA 98346.

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