Walls Debate Team Competes in National Tournament in Louisville
From left: Grayson Tess (‘23), Kate O’Brien (‘24), Savannah Wright (‘23), Jessie Moss (‘26) and Gabriel Kraemer (‘23) in Louisville for NCFL nationals / Credits: Kate O’Brien
Walls debate teams have been very successful this year, both at the local level and the national level.
Several Walls debaters competed at nationwide tournaments. This year, two Walls teams qualified in Public Forum (PF) debate, one student qualified in Lincoln-Douglas (LD) debate and one student qualified in extemporaneous speaking (Extemp).
One debate team encompasses LD, PF and extemp. Debater Jessie Moss (‘26) described the difference between LD and PF: “Lincoln-Douglas involves one v. one debate, while PF uses teams of two,” which “alters both the round structure and the preparation required.”
Additionally, “LD resolutions are more philosophical and ethical by nature,” Moss said. This means that debaters call on a “framework” to support their arguments, which is the moral or philosophical basis on which a case rests. PF does not stress philosophical grounding but rather emphasizes practical considerations and tangible resolutions, like through public policy.
Extemp is an event in which participants give a speech about current events with limited preparation time
A successful season in the local circuit — the Washington-Arlington Catholic Forensic League (WACFL) — allowed several Walls students to participate in the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) e-championship and the National Catholic Forensic League (NCFL) national tournament.
In the NSDA e-championship, which occurred online from May 6 to 8, Zoe Becker (‘26) placed third in Varsity LD and Moss placed second in Varsity Extemp.
Over Memorial Day weekend, Walls debaters went to NCFL nationals in Louisville, Kentucky. Some debaters rode a charter bus provided by WACFL, while others flew. Becker and Moss competed in Extemp and LD, respectively. In PF, two pairs competed: Gabriel Kraemer (‘23) and Savannah Wright (‘23) and Grayson Tess (‘23) and Kate O’Brien (‘24). Tess and O’Brien made it to double octofinals, and Becker to quarterfinals.
To prepare for tournaments, the team practices every Tuesday morning before school. At these meetings, debaters “collaborate, discuss the topics and prepare their cases,” according to debate coach Marielle Cornes. Debaters also prepare and do research individually throughout the week.
While the HSA funds cover registration fees for the tournament, parents and student fundraisers pay for transportation, hotels, and food, Cornes said. “We hope to expand funding coverage by the HSA next year,” she said. Still, funds have fallen short at times this year, forcing the team to miss an earlier travel tournament.
Despite these challenges, the team has performed very well. “I’m very, very proud of these kids,” Cornes said, “They have worked so hard to make our qualifications for this year possible.”