Walking the walk and talking the talk
SALT LAKE CITY – Summit High School debate captain Evan Ratzan was a little bit flustered when he walked into his first round of competition at the National Forensic League’s 2004 national speech and debate tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah, earlier this month.”For the first round, we were looking at the information for the second round, and I ended up showing late to the room, so I was pretty nerve-racked,” said the 17-year-old Ratzan, who, along with teammate Sandra DiBrito, represented SHS at the national competition for the first time in the school’s history.But Ratzan’s nerves didn’t stand in the way of weeks of grueling preparation to face the country’s best high school debaters. He quickly advanced through the four preliminary rounds, artfully constructing arguments and attacking his opponents’ positions.
“Everybody I went up against was great, but it seemed like the majority of the people weren’t beyond unbeatable,” Ratzan said.By the tournament’s end, Ratzan made it through 10 rounds of his event, Lincoln-Douglas Debate, landing him among the elite ranks of America’s high school debaters.”Making it through the 10th round of competition places him between 13th and 24th place in the country out of approximately 8,000 students,” said coach Emily Campbell. “He’s a shining star.”Ratzan’s final opponent, who eliminated him from the competition, ended up placing second.
“I was watching the final round thinking, ‘Oh, man, I could have been up there.’ I was disappointed, but it gives me motivation for next year,” Ratzan said.Ratzan and Campbell credit his stardom in the debate world to thousands of hours of studious preparation, including a week of training at a national debate camp prior to the tournament.”It doesn’t matter how gifted you are or how well you speak if you’re not willing to work hard. I debated nine months out of the year last year. When I go up against opponents, I have more of an arsenal behind me,” Ratzan said.DiBrito is unquestionably another of Summit High School’s brilliant minds. She showcased her forensic prowess in the student Congress competition, during which she argued policies on gay marriage, gender equality in the draft and many other current issues.
“Out of a room of 30 kids, they take the top eight, and I’m betting I was in the top 10,” DiBrito said. “At first, I felt extremely defeated, like I had researched all those nights in my hotel room for nothing. I’m not used to being beaten that soundly.”I’m not saying I was bad. But those kids were killer. And my family and friends made me feel really good about getting that far in the first place.”One member of DiBrito’s family, however, sees a little bit of a downside to her success in debate.”I put all (my debate skills) into my arguments at home. You can’t just shut me down with, ‘You need to vacuum,'” she said.
Both Ratzan and DiBrito intend to try their success at future debate endeavors – DiBrito in the University of Denver debate club and Ratzan in another bid at nationals.”Next year, I think I can possibly win nationals, which is my goal,” Ratzan said.Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at email@example.com.
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