Theron and Teague Harrison, Manual High School's all-star brother-sister debate team and Westword cover siblings, are going to the Urban Debate National Championship in New York City next month. The pair snagged second place at the Denver Urban Debate League City Championship this past Saturday, losing in the finals to a razor-sharp team from Thomas Jefferson High, Danite Reda and Talan Lousignont. All four teens will compete in New York.
For more on the DUDL and debate, check out this week's feature, "Say What?"
Theron and Teague were on a winning streak until the final round, which took place in a spacious classroom at the University of Denver's Sturm College of Law as other debaters, coaches, parents, league donors and a panel of seven judges looked on.
The two teams flipped a coin to decide who would be affirmative and who would be negative. Theron and Teague debuted a tough new affirmative case at the tournament -- that the United States should pull troops out of Iraq because our invasion of the country was unjust and colonialist. But they drew negative in the coin toss. As such, they faced a similarly air-tight case from Danite and Talan -- that the U.S. should remove all private military contractors from Afghanistan and Iraq, because contractors are rogue mercenaries who don't respect the rights of civilians like U.S. soldiers do.
It was a heated debate, with both sides arguing passionately and articulately for their side. Theron and Teague offered a counter-plan to Danite and Talan's case -- that the U.S. should keep the contractors there but set up a fund to pay restitution to victims of violence. In the end, the judges voted for Danite and Talan.
But as DU law professor and DUDL co-founder Roberto Corrada said, "Nothing's really on the line here except for pride." At the last minute, the DUDL announced that it would be sending a pair of two-person teams to the national championship in New York instead of one -- meaning that both the first- and second-place teams would get to go. Theron and Teague easily won their semi-final round, earning them tickets.
Watch a video of Theron and Teague debating -- and of the big announcement about the trip to the nationals in New York. Flip the page to see a list of other award-winners.
Trophies -- or bling, as they're called -- are abundant in debate, and the City Championship was no exception. At an awards banquet held at DU after the tournament, nearly every student received a medal or a trophy -- including some big awards for Manual High.
Here's a list of the winners:
Best Varsity Speaker Jessica Keys, Manual High School (Theron Harrison and Kahdijah James also won speaker awards, which are given to the top ten speakers at each tournament, as chosen by the judges. Jessica won first place.)
Judges' Choice Awards Jordyn Brewer, Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST) Joshua Hamlet, Contemporary Learning Academy (CLC) Adolfo Valdez, West High
Best Oratory Terrance Campbell, Manual High (Rashauna Tunson, also of Manual, won second place. Oratory is a new event; students who don't make the final round at a tournament can write an original three-minute speech. They read it in front of a panel of judges, who choose a winner.)
Sweepstakes Awards, given to the schools with the highest combined scores Thomas Jefferson High, first place Martin Luther King Jr. Early College, second place Manual High, third place
Administrator of the Year Sandra Just, principal, Thomas Jefferson High
Judge of the Year Michael Hoffman
Volunteer of the Year Alan Zimmerman
Dan and Joyce Culver Award, given to a parent for outstanding involvement Cordellia Harrison (In giving the award, Manual coach Charlie Smith said of Harrison, who is Theron and Teague's mom and is at every practice, "In the midst of madness, she is always poised.")
Speaker of the Year Award, "the American Idol of DUDL" Novice: Marina Urquhart, Denver Center for International Studies (DCIS) Varsity: Danite Reda, Thomas Jefferson High
Most Improved Debate Team Novice: Natalia Romo and Daniel Alvidrez, DCIS Varsity: Anthony Becker and DeMarquell Lanier, Montbello High
Debate Team of the Year Novice: Marina Urquhart and Brauwyn Mumby, DCIS Varsity: Theron and Teague Harrison, Manual High
Maximo Corrada Award, given to a debater who has overcome obstacles Marina Urquhart, DCIS
Coach of the Year Wauneta Vann, Thomas Jefferson High
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Cooperative Organization of the Year DU Sturm College of Law
2011 DUDL Hall of Fame Inductee Rob Margesson, coach of the Regis University debate team and DUDL volunteer
More from our Education archive: "Manual High debaters on why they do it, despite the nerdy stereotypes."