Theron and Teague Harrison, top high school debaters, headed to nationals -- again

Theron and Teague Harrison, the whiz brother-sister debate team from Manual High School who we profiled last year in our cover story "Say What?", are once again headed to the Urban Debate National Championship. The pair snagged first place at the Denver Urban Debate League City Championship earlier this month, winning them a shot at the national title in Washington, D.C. on April 14 and 15.

"I was really excited for them because last year, they were second place (at the city championship)," says their mother and Manual's debate coach this year, Cordellia Harrison. "I was like, 'Wow! You guys did it!'"

The Harrisons are part of the Denver Urban Debate League, a branch of a national movement that aims to bring an intensely intellectual activity usually reserved for affluent suburban schools to inner-city schools like Manual. The DUDL focuses on policy debate, regarded as the most difficult and intimidating type of competitive debate. Each year, participants debate a certain topic. Last year's was about foreign policy. This year's is about space: The United States federal government should substantially increase its exploration and/or development of space beyond the Earth's mesosphere.

In the final round at the city championship, Theron and Teague were arguing the affirmative side of that statement. Their case, according to their mother, was that Congress should fund a certain space satellite capable of detecting solar flares so those flares don't interrupt Earth's power grid. It's in-depth, smarty-pants stuff -- which is why the DUDL won "Best Smarty-Pants Program for High Schoolers" in our 2012 Best of Denver issue. The city championship judges voted 5-2 in favor of Theron and Teague. Second-place winners Camila Neumann and Selene Figueroa from Martin Luther King, Jr. Early College also won a spot at the national tournament in Washington, D.C.

Eighteen-year-old Theron and seventeen-year-old Teague are both seniors this year, and their mother reports that in addition to preparing for nationals, they're solidifying their college plans. Teague plans to attend Regis University in Denver, where she'll join the school's prestigious debate team. An excellent student, Teague won a $10,000 scholarship from the Better Business Bureau, as well as $11,000 per year from Regis.

Theron is seriously considering attending Hastings College in Nebraska, which heavily recruited him for its debate team. He, too, won an academic scholarship of $10,000 per year from the college. His mother is rooting for him to choose Hastings, which she notes is Mayor Michael Hancock's alma mater. Hancock was also a Manual grad.

Below, watch a video from last year's DUDL city championship, at which Theron and Teague placed second. And read about the siblings' adventures at the national championship in New York City last year here and here.

Denver Urban Debate League's 2011 City Championships from Village Voice Media on Vimeo.

More from our Follow That Story archive: "Manual High debaters on why they do it, despite the nerdy stereotypes."

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar

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