The Cleveland Cannibals were victorious at the district speech and debate competition for the eighth time in the past nine years, with 24 entries qualifying for the state competition on April 18-20.
Those 24 entries are more than almost any other team in the state, putting the Cannibals in a position to contend for another state title.
District performance is measured by sweepstakes points, in which a school is awarded points for having a student come in first or second place in that category. Cleveland finished with a total of 233 points, and Lincoln came in second with 133.5 points, making this a definitive win for the Cannibals.
Cleveland had success in both the speech events and the debate events, with some students dominating in both. Senior and team captain Eliana Kertzner is going to state in three events: public forum debate, informative speaking, and oratory. Maggie McBride, also a senior and a team captain, is going to state in public forum debate. She also competed in prose reading at the district event.
“Winning public forum with my partner Adley was a really fun moment,” said McBride.
The Cannibals won all three debate events, with two Cleveland teams tying for first place in both public forum and policy debate categories and senior Porter Wheeler winning the Lincoln-Douglas debate category.
“I’m really proud of the public forum debaters because we swept the event, so we took first, second, and third, and that was the only event in the entire district championship where any team was able to do that,” said Cannibals head coach Patrick Gonzales.
Students and coaches attribute Cleveland’s speech success to a variety of things, but primarily the fact that the team has both width and depth. At the district competition, Cleveland had a competitor in every single one of the 17 events, something that the two runner-up schools (Lincoln and Wilson) did not have. But the team’s talent goes beyond the seniors who have been in the program for four years and command their respective events.
“You scratch the surface [of our team] and you see the second kid is great, and the third kid is great, and the fourth kid is great, so there’s no escaping anywhere,” said Gonzales.
An example of that depth was the amount of sophomores on the district team, some of whom qualified for and will be competing at state. “There’s a bunch of sophomores going [to state] which is cool, and just means we have a really talented group of people that are going to be the future,” said Kertzner.
One of these sophomores is Acil Meacham, who won the ADS event. ADS stands for after dinner speaking, and competitors perform a memorized humorous speech.
“I’ve been working on this speech about Comcast and how it works and why that is for the past year, and I brought that to districts and it went well,” Meacham said. “I’m very excited to go to state but I’m also insanely nervous.”
The team is proud of their performance at the district level and optimistic about their chances of placing well at state.
Gonzales also attributes the team’s sustained success to the strong community and mentorship by older students to younger ones.
“I was thinking about the long legacy of us being great in Lincoln-Douglas debate. Porter Wheeler became the district champion, but he learned from Glen Skahill and Alex Lindgren-Ruby, and they learned from Keegan Williams-Thomas…it’s just a case of kids taking care of kids, and the trophies just come,” said Gonzales.