Cleveland Speech and Debate Takes the Fight Home


Clarion photo Camilia Saulino

This is Patrick Gonzales, CHS Speech and Debate coach and teacher. He can be found on the first floor in the room full of neckties and trophies

By Lily Tewfik, Reporter

Cleveland hosted the first debate tournament on their campus since the early 2000s on Dec. 2.

The tournament, called the Holiday Edge, is traditionally hosted by Clackamas High School, but faced some overcrowding issues last year, causing Cleveland to pick up the debate half of the tournament this year.

The excess number of entries in the previous year forced staff to turn away students, something that goes against the main philosophy in speech and debate.

“That’s the way the speech and debate world is. It’s gotten so big that it’s outgrown single campuses. And last year they had to turn teams away, and students away, and that’s our big selling point, that we have a place for you. There’s no cuts and if you want to play, you get to play,” said Patrick Gonzales, speech and debate coach.

Gonzales didn’t want to deny students the ability to compete in the tournaments, so he decided that Cleveland, a regular participant and winner in state tournaments, needed to step up. He offered to host the debate part of the tournament at Cleveland, while the speech events would continue at Clackamas High School as planned.

After deciding to take on the tournament, Gonzales also wanted to honor an old, but commonly forgotten tradition in speech and debate: not accepting trophies as a host.

“It was something that we did in the ‘80s and ‘90s, even the early 2000s. You were a good host, you were a gracious host; you didn’t compete for your own trophies. You let your kids compete, but you didn’t take the trophies. I’m not sure how other sports like track and wrestling do it, but somehow we just lost track of that, and I think being a good host is not taking the trophies,” said Gonzales.

Gonzales added that the team captains jumped at the idea, agreeing that it was the right thing to do.

“It was good for us, we do very well, we haven’t finished second all year, we haven’t finished lower than third in state in eight years. We always finish first, or on occasion second or third, so it was good for us to just bring speech to other people and just have them be happy,” said Gonzales.

Even though the teams didn’t get to take home any trophies, they had an unexpected advantage on their own campus, according to Gonzales.

“Number two, the neat thing, is that all of our kids had home field advantage. So they could just get up in the morning, drive over here and start competing. Usually, we get up, we meet at six in the morning in the parking lot, we drive off to Silverton, or Salem, or wherever. I didn’t really anticipate that; I forgot that it’s pretty easy, they can just show up, and they know how to get around campus. And we don’t charge ourselves for them, so we saved something like $300 in entry fees because we hosted,” said Gonzales.

Gonzales said he was proud of the work all the students did at both campuses. He commended the varsity public forum teams especially. The teams are made up of Eliana Kertzner, junior, her partner Colter Decker, junior, and Marguerite McBride, junior, and her partner Alex Blosser, senior. According to him, they finished first and second, which is called a “close out” in speech and debate.  

Liz Van Winkle, speech and debate assistant coach, agreed that the teams did well at the tournament, but added that there is always room for improvement.  

“I think in previous years we did really well and had really strong competitors in individual events, and this year I’m working a lot with the debate kids to try to kind of beef up that side of Cleveland’s competitiveness. I’m hoping that this is a really good indicator that we’re going to have lots of teams do well for the rest of the semester as we get ready for state,” said Van Winkle.

When asked how Cleveland’s team could improve, Gonzales only spoke of recruiting more kids, rather than refining their skills.

“We’re already big; we have maybe a hundred people on the team now, so we have a lot of people,” said Gonzales.

Gonzales thinks that there is a large number students at Cleveland who could thrive in speech and debate, they just haven’t joined it yet.

“I’m most interested in those students who just haven’t gotten into a community yet; they’re not doing newspaper, they’re not doing mock trial, or theater, or choir, you know, and they haven’t plugged in yet,” said Gonzales.

Speech and debate is open for all students and, since they have tournaments throughout the school, students can join at any time.

“So I would say that that’s probably the area that I would improve; just making sure students understand that they can still walk in and be in a speech tournament. We’re also a no cut sport, so, if people prepare, they get to play, which is great,” said Gonzales.  

Cleveland’s speech and debate team has always been a strong representation of Cleveland, but this tournament shows that even they can make improvements and strides to better the team.