When most people think of after-school activities, their minds tend to gear toward the athletic feats; football, volleyball, basketball, hockey, the list goes on. But for some Brainerd High School students, exercising their minds instead has earned them a bid to a national tournament, and recognition across the state.
Members of the BHS debate team for five years apiece, Miriam Pritschet, 11th grade, Alec Starzinski and Audrey Lothspeich, both seniors, qualified to represent the Northern Lights Debate Region at the 2013 National Forensic League National Tournament this summer following success at the district qualifying tournament at St. Michael-Albertville Schools in early December.
Only six Minnesota high school students are able to go on to compete at the national level each year, with BHS recieving its nod a fair amount of the time. Pritschet went undefeated in Lincoln Douglas debate (LD) at the qualifying tournament and will be in the nationals for third year in a row while Starzinski and Lothspeich went undefeated in Public Forum (PF) debate at the qualifier and both will attend nationals for the first time.
The National Tournament will be held this year in Birmingham, Ala., June 16-21.
“It’s like a culmination of all the hard work we’ve put in over the years in debate,” said Starzinski of reaching it to nationals.
Coach Dave Borash said that from the start, nationals has been a goal for all three this year.
“They have been working really hard to get there all year,” said Borash, who coaches alongside Dave Pritschet, Miriam’s dad.
Practicing together three days a week, Lothspeich said in theory the group is supposed to do a lot of work.
“We have to write cases, which are like essays,” she said, “on either side of the position and you have to get a little bit of evidence to back that up.”
The debate season starts in September with the first tournament in mid-October. In total, the team competes in 17 competitions with the state competition wrapping the season up in mid-January.
“It’s a lot,” said Borash. “They get up and meet early on Saturday mornings to make the trip to compete and then debate for a couple of hours before heading back to Brainerd.”
Competing in two different categories, Pritschet is in LD, which is a one-on-one debate that involves a topic that she must research and argue her points. In PF, Starzinski and Lothspeich argue both sides, again researching and preparing arguments.
And while they can argue their way to national tournaments, the teens said the same tactics don’t seem to work on their parents quite as well.
“My parents are both lawyers so that doesn’t work.” said Lothspeich with a smile.
Pritschet said her debating skills did help her in getting a cellphone, to which Dave Pritschet just shook his head with a smile and said, “she is good.”