Dexter Debate are state champions

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The Dexter Debate team. photo courtesy of Deb Marsh

A strong group effort and good preparation helped the Dexter Debate team find big success.

The team, which consists of students from Mill Creek Middle School and Dexter High School, had an amazing season that ended up with them recently winning all three divisions of the Michigan Interscholastic Forensic Association's Debate State Championship.

The Sun Times News reached out to Dexter Debate to get their reactions and ask them how they did it.

“We were thrilled,” said Debora Marsh, Dexter’s Director of Debate and Forensics. “All of the students had been working together to make sure that we were prepared against the rest of the teams in the state, and helped to ‘prep out’ their teammates before their big rounds, so everyone on the team felt that they were involved in the wins in some way. Winning all 3 divisions of the Michigan state tournament has never happened before--ever. The kids were over the moon with excitement and pride."

Owen Carlson, a DHS senior on the team who won Varsity, said, “How on earth did we ever do this? It's amazing! I'm proud of our whole team.”

The Michigan Interscholastic Forensic Association's State Championship Debate Tournament had 12 other teams at the middle level that made it to states while at the Novice level there were 30 teams that made it to states and in varsity there were 28 teams in states.

Marsh said the Dexter team prepared for the tournament by attending tournaments at least every other weekend, sometimes two weekends in a row, since September.

“We met and worked and practiced three days a week, every week since before school started, and the students did plenty of research and case writing on their own time,” Marsh said. “It was truly a team effort.”

According to Marsh, Dexter debated 24 students with 2 teams (so 4 students) in the Middle-Level Division, 5 teams (10 students) in the Novice (or first-year) Division, and 5 teams (10 students) in the Varsity Division. She said the way the state championship works is that all the teams can participate, but the school can only advance one team per division to the elimination rounds if they advance.

“We had one team in the Middle-Level Division, Ruaraidh and Ewan Imfeld, that was undefeated, who advanced to the Final Round of Middle Level, and ended up winning the round, two teams that were undefeated in the Novice Division, Claire Beneteau and her partner Elizabeth Curtis, and Xavier Reyes and his partner Crystal Duan,” Marsh said. “We advanced Claire and Elizabeth because they had more overall speaker points than Xavier and Crystal. Claire and Elizabeth went on to win both their semifinal and final rounds.”

She said, “In the Varsity Division, the team of Julia Berkholz and Mischa Rafferty was undefeated, but decided that they wanted to let their teammates, Owen Carlson and Griffin Patel advance to the elimination rounds, even though they had an inferior preliminary round record, because this was their senior year. The girls wanted them to have the opportunity to win their last state tournament. It turned out that the boys went on to win both their semifinal and final rounds. It was incredibly exciting for the whole team.”

Berkholz, a junior who gave up a spot in the varsity finals to the seniors, said “It was their last state tournament, we felt it was their turn.”

Of the tournament, DHS junior and team captain Bonnie Keating said, “I think the only way it is possible to win states, because of the tournament's structure, is as a whole team, and we did just that.”

Beyond the success, the debate team has been a positive thing for the students.

DHS junior Lachlan Imfeld said, “Since I started debating, my public speaking and my confidence have improved,” while freshman Beneteau said “Debate has created an environment which allows teams to learn, grow, and succeed at levels they didn't think possible.”

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