JHHS Speech team member takes 3rd in online debate series

JACKSON, Wyo. — Two members of the Jackson Hole High School Speech and Debate team spent most of Sunday talking ‘til they were blue in the face. All that ‘filibustering’ was good enough to place one student in 3rd place, overall, at the Ronald Reagan Great Communicator Debate Series Midwest Qualifier.

Junior Joshua Hansen and sophomore William Aepli—both among the record 11 JHHS students qualifying for nationals—had strong showings at the debate series which took place online Sunday, April 19.

The top two finishers from each of the six regional qualifiers earn a paid trip to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, held in July. Once there, they compete for the national title and $25,000 worth in college scholarships. This year’s competition falls on the 40th anniversary of Mr. Reagan’s election to the presidency.

While the Midwest Qualifier was intended to be held in Independence, Missouri, its online nature meant registration was opened up to the whole nation, attracting 93 competitors, from a total of 19 states.

Competitors spent the day debating the following resolution: “States are more effective at legislating to improve the environment than the federal Government.” Students prepared themselves to defend either side of the resolution, not knowing which they would have to argue until minutes before competition.

After five preliminary rounds, the field was cut from 93 to 32. Both Aepli and Hansen advanced with four wins to one loss each. From there, having already debated for six hours straight, the top 32 competed in a single-elimination bracket.

Aepli finished in round six as the 19th seed coming out of prelims. Hansen continued on for five more hours to round nine, losing to eventual winner Zachary Heintz in semi-finals. It was good enough for 3rd place in the tournament, and narrowly missing qualifying for the final tournament in July.

Heintz, of Madison West High School in Wisconsin, will be joined by 2nd place finisher Rishik Bethi, of Southlake Carroll High School in Texas.

Hansen and Aepli are coached by Londe and Margaret Gagnon. They will join their teammates in competing at the online Wyoming State Tournament, to be held on April 22 – 25.

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