Dexter Debate wins at Wayne State University
The Dexter Community Schools Debate team had another great showing at the recent Wayne State University High School Tournament, where they took first place.
The 1st place Varsity and 1st place Novice individual speaker award winners included: Ewan Imfeld, Ruaraidh Imfeld, Enzo Cimaroli, Dasha Hubert, Tabitha Lamb while 1st speaker in Novice was Emerson Skowronski, Claire Beneteau and Connor Din and 1st speaker in Varsity was Adyn Skowronski.
The Sun Times News (STN) connected with the Debate Team to ask them about this win.
Adyn Skowronski, a Dexter High School senior, said “It always feels really good to win, after all of the time we've put in as a team.”
His sister Emerson Skowronski, a freshman at DHS, agreed and said, “Winning obviously feels amazing. It makes me feel accomplished. In the finals, when the judges said we won, I couldn't believe it. But I couldn't have been happier. Knowing that you won at something that is very hard to win is awesome.”
Crystal (Jinxuan) Duan, a junior at DHS, said, “Winning debate rounds itself is a very fulfilling experience, so winning at a competition is truly an incredible, surreal experience. Especially because it seemed so unreachable at the beginning of my debate career when I started last year, so seeing that dream come true is truly such an accomplishment.”
Debora Marsh, the director of the team, said she was “very proud of the hard work the team is doing to be as successful as they are.”
“We did end last year with our triple MIFA State Championship wins in Varsity, Novice, and Middle Level, so I was slightly worried that the students would rest on their laurels a little, but that sure has not been the case!” said Marsh.
She said the team's returning debaters have only improved since last year, and the team has grown with 10 freshmen joining this year, three new 8th graders, and a couple of new seniors, so the prospects for the future look great, but she would love to get a few more Mill Creek students to join so that they have even numbers of competitors at that level.
One cool thing that happened at the WSU tournament, Marsh said, was that the 1st place individual speaker in each division was the Skowronski siblings. Adyn won 1st place speaker in the Varsity Division, and his sister, Emerson, won 1st place speaker in the Novice (or first year) Division.
“That's pretty cool,” Marsh said.
She believes the reason for the team's success is that the more experienced students take responsibility for mentoring the new members.
“This creates an atmosphere of camaraderie and support, while still being competitive,” Marsh said.
At the Wayne State University High School Tournament, Dexter had 4 teams in the top 10 in the Varsity Division and 3 teams in the top 10 in the Novice Division but the rules at this tournament (like at the state championship), only allow a school to advance one team to the elimination rounds per Division.
“All 7 of them would have qualified for the Quarterfinals, but we could only advance one team per division,” Marsh said. “So, even though they earned a spot in an invitational bracket, they supported each other and helped strategize with one another about how to best approach our out-round debates. That's the secret ingredient--one partnership's success is really a success for our whole team.”
At the West Bloomfield Invitational two weeks ago, Marsh said they were the top four teams in Varsity at the end of the preliminary rounds and since that tournament broke to a Semi Final Round, all four teams in Semis were from Dexter, which would then result in both teams advancing would also be from Dexter.
Marsh said they didn't actually debate those rounds, instead, they did something they call, Locked Out Semis, which simply means the tournament didn't run any elimination rounds in Varsity and Dexter took home the trophies for semis and finals.
In preparation, the team practices the same for all tournaments, according to Marsh.
“The students write their cases, and they read and comment on each others' cases offering suggestions about which evidence is stronger or which link chain they should use to clarify their argumentation for the judge,” she said. “Then we have a brainstorming session about what kinds of arguments we saw at the last tournament that we didn't have solid refutation points against, and we divvy up the work researching and writing what we call A2s (Answers To).”
“Then we spend at least 3 days having practice rounds against one another with students judging the rounds so that they have experience using the changes and improvements on their cases and argumentation,” Marsh said. “When students judge a round of debate, they get to see the debate from a different perspective allowing them a chance to reflect and consider how their arguments sound to a judge and make decisions about how to make their arguments more compelling. It seems to be the recipe to success.”
STN asked the students what they like about debate.
Ninth-grader Dasha Hubert said, “I'd definitely have to say it's the community. I joined this year and so far it's been really fun and beneficial. If I have any questions I can just go to the older kids and they're happy to help. There's no judgment and everyone’s just working together and having fun. I also really love the public speaking aspect. I feel like since I've joined my public speaking skills have improved a lot. Overall I think debate is really beneficial and I'm so happy I joined!”
Mark Remington, a senior, said “It's always exciting to win, especially in a field that I take so seriously. What I think is more exciting, though, is that this is only the beginning of the year; there is still so much we can do and so much we have to learn. That part of it, learning about topics and weaving comprehensive ideas together, is by far my favorite part of debate. No other activity that I know about can provide that in-depth knowledge.”
A good sum up came from Elena Martinez, a Mill Creek eighth-grader, who said, “It feels thrilling, to know how well I did even though I'm a first-year middle schooler. There is nothing that gives me as much of a serotonin boost as debate.”
She ended with, “Debate is fun mostly because I enjoy arguing with people. Being able to communicate an idea with evidence and without getting heated is an important skill I want to develop”.