South debaters headed to national competition

Sam Graves, Staff writer

This June, members of the South High debate team will compete against hundreds of teams from around the nation in a national competition.

Two teams from South are competing in the The National Speech and Debate Tournament that will be held in Dallas, Texas from June 13-18 and is sponsored by the National Forensic League. One team from South consists of sophomores Cole Johnson-Jensen and Jacob Boucher; the other consists of sophomore Oskar Tauring-Traxler and senior Izak Gallini-Matyas, who are both returning to nationals for the second straight year.

Teams debate about various policy proposals. For example, this year’s topic for the Dallas tournament is the United States’ military presence abroad. Because I believe the military to be a modern day form of institutionalized violence, I’m happy that students across the nation are able to question the exceptionalism of America,” said South debate coach Ryan Zelmer when talking about the topic

South’s debate teams meet three times per week for practice and compete in tournaments nearly every weekend for three months.

In addition to competing in the tournament in Dallas, Tauring-Traxler and Gallini-Matyas will be competing in the Chase Urban Debate National Championship in April in Manhattan, New York. South debate coach Ryan Zelmer said that the New York tournament “favors a slightly different type of debating that actually fits our style better.”

Zelmer is entering his third year as the South debate team coach. He is a former debater from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and is currently a student at the University of Minnesota Law School. Previously, he coached debate at Patrick Henry High School and at Lincoln High School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, his alma mater.

During practices, debate team members make a list of topics to research and debate, and each gets an assignment. They also try to learn what arguments other schools commonly use and, according to Zelmer, research both sides of an argument in order to justify their opinions. “Because I believe in exposure to a wide variety of thought, I prefer that debaters follow their mind in preparing for debate rounds,” he said.

Zelmer believes that having Johnson-Jensen and Boucher work together with Tauring-Traxler and Gallini-Matyas will help South be successful in the tournament in Dallas. “Combining thoughts and ideas with Izak and Oskar will also help them get a feel for what arguments will resonate better with the judges at the tournament,” Zelmer said. “Ultimately, I believe that South High School will be in the thick of competition for a national title.”

Sophomore Jacob Boucher started debating in 7th grade. “Then when I came to South I joined the team. If it wasn’t for my debate partner Cole Johnson-Jensen, I wouldn’t have joined.” Johnson-Jensen’s mother is the Washburn High School debate coach. Johnson-Jensen said he joined the team for educational purposes. “I knew that it would help me with my classes and teach me about current events,” he said.

South is part of the Urban Debate League, which will be paying for the team to attend both tournaments this year.