Debate teams qualify for nationals; first time in 9 years

This June, seniors Kenton Fox and Khalil Kumar, junior Chase Cassil, and sophomore Fletcher Hummingbird will compete at the National Speech and Debate Association debate tournament in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The two teams qualified for nationals at the home tournament on Dec. 9.

“I’m incredibly excited, I’ve been really close [to qualifying] the last two years. I’m excited to have finally made it with my favorite partner so far, Fletcher, and especially with my two best friends, Chase and Kenton. It’s been a ride,” Kumar said.

This is the first time two teams have qualified for nationals since the 2007-2008 school year.

“The first time we qualified two teams would’ve been the year of James Davis, Cameron Cassil and Emily Konzolia,” debate coach David Williams said.
Both teams and Williams were confident in their chances of making it to nationals.

“I felt good about our chances after the opening meeting. Nobody wanted to debate us,” Williams said.

The qualifying tournament is is very high stakes. If a team loses two rounds, they are immediately disqualified from the tournament. It is unlike any other tournament that Newton participates in or hosts. This means that teams must spend more time than normal preparing for the tournament.

“The week before, we probably spent seven or eight hours preparing, a few hours each day,” Hummingbird said.

The national tournament includes teams from all 50 states and mostly includes teams of seniors with four years of debate experience.

“[There are not normally sophomore qualifiers] in policy debate. Normally there’s not too many juniors either, but this year Chase and Fletcher both made it. I’m very excited for them,” Kumar said.

After the sixth round, both teams awaited to see if they would have to debate another round or had won the tournament and qualified to nationals.

“I couldn’t stop smiling for a while. Kenton and Khalil and Chase, we were all really excited, it was a special moment,” Hummingbird said.

At the tournament, the two teams were undefeated until the fifth round when they were scheduled to debate each other. Between the two teams, there was only one loss.

“In the end, Fletcher and Khalil were undefeated, they were 6-0, and Chase and Kenton were 5-1, the only team they lost to was Khalil and Fletcher and they didn’t actually debate, we determined that by number of ballots, Khalil had 2 more ballots at that point,” Williams said.

The idea of going to nationals can be intimidating for some people, but both teams feel confident in their chances.

“[I feel] pretty confident. Teams in the past have made it decently far from Newton, and we feel that we will be able to do the same thing,” Kumar said.