When it comes to the speech and debate team, there is no debate.
This elite group of students brings its A-game whenever it takes center stage at the podium to voice opinions and debate pressing topics in today’s society. The team has always been relevant, and with strong performances so far this school year by its top members, and with a new debate teacher who has the team primed for glory, it is easy to see why.
The team participates in various types of speech and debates. They include: public forum (team) debates, Lincoln-Douglas (one-on-one) debates, congressional debates and original oratory. Senior Seth Beavers participates in Lincoln-Douglas debates, while others participate in different events.
Juniors Ryan Chandler and Justin Van compete in original oratory, a type of speech that involves an original memorized speech of at least seven minutes. The team has had a lot of success in public forum debate, which can be attributed to their ability to excel as a unit. Junior Davis Burns, an integral member of the team, has always contributed to the team’s success. Burns participates in congressional debate and extemporaneous debate.
A few of his many past accomplishments include: 1st in congressional debate and 5th in extemporaneous speaking at a tournament at Elkins High School, a finalist in congressional debate at Bellaire High School, 7th in congressional debate and a semi-finalist in extemporaneous speaking at another Elkins High tournament, 3rd in congressional debate and a semi-finalist in extemporaneous speaking at a tournament hosted by Lamar Consolidated High School and 6th in congressional debate and a semi-finalist at a Cypress Creek High School tournament.
Davis has made a name for himself as an accomplished debater and public speaker not only in Houston and Texas, but even nationally.
“I am ranked in the top 16% of debaters nationally, the top 20% of debaters in Texas, and the top 100 in our district,”“I am the chair (leader) for a congressional debate event and a co-chair for an extemporaneous speaking event. I am already qualified for the TFA State tournament, which is the ultimate goal of debaters aside from nationals, and was also invited to the tournament at UC Berkeley.”
-Davis Burns, Congressional debater
In addition to the high profile rankings he has earned, Davis has also qualified for a state debate tournament, been invited to a tournament at a university, and been named a chair, or leader, of several speech and debate events.
When talking about his experience as a member of the debate team, Davis has had quite the ride. “I joined the team when I was a freshman and was completely terrible,” Davis said. “I had to go to a debate camp to eventually get good.”
The debate camp served Burns well, and he soon became a pro debater. Debate really drains your energy and takes up a lot of your time though, as Davis found out.
“Tournaments are two days, Friday and Saturday with events beginning at 3 normally, and normally we don’t get home until around 11 at night on Fridays, and if we do well on Saturday, then we keep going. Basically we spend a ton of time in a school. But I enjoy every aspect. I like competing, because not only do you make new friends, you get closer to your own team as well. The diversity of events brings new looks at topics, so everyone gets closer as the season goes on.”
-Davis Burns, Congressional debater
Despite the grueling hours spent debating, Davis has enjoyed being a debater and everything it involves.
New debate teacher, Mr. Darrell Yarbrough, has earned much praise among his team. “Mr. Yarbrough has been absolutely fantastic, he brings many years of experience and has won many awards as a coach,” Davis said.
Yarbrough is impressed with his team’s overall performance this school year. “This year the St. Thomas Debate team has done really well,” Yarbrough said.
At the beginning of the school year, the team competed in a swing tournament at Westside and Foster High Schools. Senior Seth Beavers took first place in debate there, before earning his nationals bid later on in the season at a debate tournament hosted by the Greenhill School up in Dallas.
“We have several guys qualified for state already,” Yarbrough said. Davis Burns has already qualified for congressional debate and junior Ryan Chandler picked up the first qualification for the Eagles in original oratory.
Jake Bartlett-Will has also received a state qualification for his great job in debate this year.
More debaters are on the verge of state qualification.
“We have several others that are just on the verge of qualifying for TFA State,” Yarbrough said. The S debaters have done some traveling too this year, showing they can get the job done near and far. We’ve been to Minneapolis, Minnesota to the Apple Valley Mini Apple Tournament, and had a lot of really strong performances there,” Yarbrough said, “and next semester we will be heading to Berkley for another national tournament.”
Prospects are looking very bright for team as the look to duplicate their accomplishments from last year, while building on new victories this year. Under the leadership of English teacher Darrell Yarbrough, the team will surely continue to soar above and beyond.