By LESLIE EIKLEBERRY
Two teams from the same high school placing first and second in the state two-speaker debate tournament is nothing more than a dream for many debate coaches. For Sacred Heart High School's Olga Silverman, that dream came true this past weekend as two Sacred Heart teams finished in the top two spots in the Class 3A-2A-1A tournament.
Saturday's wins for Sacred Heart, however, came with an unusual twist: the second-place team was made up of first-year debaters.
Seniors and four-year debaters Sara Del Real and Lillian Perrin finished in the top spot while sophomores Kiera Cochran and Stephanie "Stevie" Silverman took second place.
"I am very happy that my seniors, Lily and Sara, won this well-deserved title at the end of their high school debate career. They worked very hard, honing their skills and growing their knowledge every year. Moreover, after winning the runner-up title at the four-speaker 3-2-1A State Debate Championship last year, they set their goals very high for this season, and I had high hopes for them as well," Olga Silverman told Salina Post. "However, finding my second team in the final bracket came as a great surprise. Both Kieara and Stevie are novice debaters. While they were showing promising results throughout the season, I did not expect to see them make it to the finals. I hoped that they would break into the elimination rounds, but they went far beyond my expectations."
Olga Silverman explained that when two debate teams from the same school are to meet in the final round of the tournament, the coach has the choice of either letting the teams compete with each other or selecting the winner. She chose to select the winner.
"It was an easy decision, because the Perrin-Del Real team went undefeated throughout the entire tournament and arrived at the finals with the 8-0 win-loss record. Not only did our seniors deserve the win for their years of hard work and mentorship over the new team members, but also they have proved their mastery by winning every single round in this tournament," she noted.
The debate topic and COVID-19
Olga Silverman pointed out that both this year's debate topic and the COVID-19 pandemic provided additional challenges for debaters.
This year's topic was "The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform in the United States in one or more of the following: forensic science, policing, sentencing."
"A particular challenge of debating this topic in 2020 was in not only learning about the mechanisms of the criminal justice system, but also in keeping up with the rapidly developing changes in criminal justice," Olga Silverman explained.
Additionally, the pandemic forced high school debate to go virtual, which, as Olga Silverman noted "took away the fun of traveling and meeting opponents in person."
"Nevertheless, our students were able to adapt, develop a new sense of comradery, and had competing through Zoom," she told Salina Post.
Life outside of debate
While the four debaters spent a great deal of time prepping for their successful season, Olga Silverman was quick to point out that debate didn't totally define them.
"In addition to debate, each of the four girls are involved in other challenging activities. Lillian Perrin won the 2020 state championship in tennis, Sara Del Real became a recipient of P.O.E. STAR scholarship (signifying her leadership in school and community), Kiera Cochran plays volleyball and basketball, and Stevie Silverman plays drums in band and participates in 4-H. All four are outstanding students," she noted.