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Local Debate Tourney Draws National Competition

Marie Li and Spencer Kim from Durham debated in the public forum event. Photo: Tanner Latham

Ardrey Kell High sophomore Micah Stubbs broke through to the quarterfinals in Oratorical Declamation, or DEC. Photo: Tanner Latham 800 students from all over the country were at Myers Park High School last Friday and Saturday for the Laird Lewis Invitational Speech and Debate Tournament. 300 of those students were from the Charlotte region. WFAE's Tanner Latham was on campus and followed one local school. At first it's difficult to learn the lingo of a high school debate and forensics tournament. A young competitor wore slippers until heels were a necessity. "I'm double entered, so I'll go to DEC and the OI classroom," says Micah Tubbs, a sophomore at Ardrey Kell High School. "But, man, I hope I do well, because this is one of two tournaments that does breaks and octas, quarters, finals All right. Quick translation. Micah was first talking about the events. DEC is short for Oratorical Declamation, or performing someone else's speech. And OI is an oral interpretation of literature. To break means to break through to the next round. Octas, or Octafinals, precede quarterfinals. "Oh, sorry, there's a lot of debate terminology I don't even know I'm saying," she admits. Micah was one of 800 students competing in the Laird Lewis Invitational at Myers Park High School. That's 800 13- to 18-year-olds. Most of the boys tugged and winced at too-tight, rarely-worn neckties. Some of the girls hobbled in their high heels like shaky, newborn colts. One of Micah's teammates, however, was cool, calm, and confident. Senior Carly Ruda, one of the team's stars, has a theatre background. So she frequently competes in Dramatic Interpretation, or DI in the lingo. In this event, you recite a serious passage from literature. Carly says becoming a member of the speech and debate team four years ago cultivated her acting. For Carly Ruda, the debate team helps her enhance her acting skills. Photo: Tanner Latham Ruda performed a Dramatic Interpretation from the book Smashed by Koren Zailckas. To listen to that performance, click here. "I come in, and I do a longer monologue than I'm usually asked to do, I still get character development, I still have to communicate ideas to an audience without set design, lighting, or props," she says. "So, it's really nice practice." Her coach, Maggie Koller, says the kinds of skills her students learn pay off long after the tournament scores are tallied. "I would put my money on every single kid on my team against anybody for a job interview, because they have the skills," says Kohler. "And they learned them in high school." But this was still a competition, and Ardrey High School wanted to win. Micah eventually made it to the DEC quarterfinals. Carly reached the semis of DI. And the team itself placed 5th overall out of 54 schools. That made it the highest ranked team from the Charlotte area. Marie Li and Spencer Kim from Durham debated in the public forum event. Photo: Tanner Latham