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Debate team studying up for competitions

KINGSTON — It wasn’t the type of environment most individuals would envision at a debate team practice.

There wasn’t any heated discussion, there wasn’t even any discourse. It was very business-like.

A handful of Kingston High School students were reading through newspapers and books silently studying material they will need to master for one of their upcoming debate competitions in the next several months. The season began in October and concludes in March.

Currently, there are only six students on the Kingston’s roster but that number is expected to grow following the completion of Kingston High School fall sports as well as the Kingston drama club performance concluding Nov. 11.

The KHS debate team meets from 2:45-4 p.m. Mondays.

First year KHS debate team head coach Deborah MacKinnon, an English 9 and creative writing teacher, said she expected more students on the roster this year, but isn’t letting the size of the team impact the effort.

“In the spring when the school district was doing surveys between 30-35 students had inquired about becoming part of the team,” the 18-year veteran teacher said. “We’re a school sport that is governed by the WIAA. We’re governed just like football and basketball are.”

MacKinnon said students participating in the debate team learn valuable skills that can help each one of them down the road.

“Debate is an activity that will pay these students back big time,” she said. “The Wall Street Journal says being a state or national qualifier increases their chances of being in top level college by 20-30 percent.”

Thus far, Kingston has only participated in two competitions. Kingston travels to its next meet at Snohomish High School Nov. 16-17.

“The tournaments are really addictive. Once they get to the tournaments, most students enjoy the competition,” MacKinnon said. “It gives them an intrinsic reward.”

While debate is technically called a team sport, it’s more of an individual sport — like wrestling or swimming. Typically students go against each other debating an issue in front of judges. The winner of that individual dual scores points for his or her team.

KHS belongs to the National Forensic League. Events debaters can choose to be a part of include extemporaneous speaking, original oratory, interpretation, policy debate, Lincoln/Douglas debate, congressional debate and public forum debate.

Sophomore Mitch Murdock, who recently moved to the Kingston area from Delta, Colo. devotes a large amount of time honing his debating skills.

“I spend at least four hours a day focusing on debate,” he said. “In debate you have to be highly organized. In my particular category (extemporaneous speaking), I have to keep up with current events, and be highly organized. Being efficient is the most important thing.”

Kingston student Sara Hedlund said she joined debate to improve her ability to speak in front of an audience.

“I thought this would enhance my public speaking skills,” she said. “I thought doing this would be a good way to better those skills.”

KHS debate captain senior Frank Murdock is excited about being a mentor for younger students on the team. Murdock competed on a debate at his former school in Colorado a year ago.

“As a senior, I have a chance to help start a legacy,” he said. “It’s nice to know that what we’re doing now can have an impact on something down the road. I’m excited to share my experience with others on our team.”

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