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After going through eight rounds of debate in two days, North Lamar’s senior Kelsey Preston, pictured right, and freshman Kay Edwards, pictured left, emerged as the silver medalist, second best in Texas 3A, at the University Interscholastic League (UIL) Cross Examination Debate Tournament held on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin. While most Lamar County teenagers were enjoying spring break, Preston and Edwards along with North Lamar teammates Seth Gurley (junior) and Steele Musgrove (freshman) were competing against 62 of the best high school debate teams in the State of Texas on Monday and Tuesday, March 10th and 11th.
The first day of competition on Monday resulted in both teams earning three wins and one loss, each advancing to the finals on Tuesday, which had been narrowed down to sixteen teams. On Tuesday, Gurley and Musgrove were eliminated from the tournament in the first round. Preston and Edwards, however, won three rounds and advanced to the finals where they lost to Athens in a very close two to one decision by the judges.
For Preston, it was a very nostalgic experience as she has advanced to state competition for three straight years. “I am so excited to earn the silver medal and especially happy for Kay to have this experience. But at the same time it makes me a little sad to realize that I just debated for the last time in my high school career,” Preston said. Last year she earned the bronze medal with debate partner North Lamar graduate Cody Eilrich, who currently attends the University of Texas in Dallas.
North Lamar Debate Coach Kristi Hodgkiss said, “I am so proud of our debate teams and what they have accomplished in the last several years. Very few people advance to state competition in Cross Examination Debate for three years as Kelsey did, and it is even more remarkable that freshmen advance. It is almost unheard of for a freshman to compete in the finals at state.”
The Texas UIL State Cross Examination Debate Tournament is the largest high school debate tournament in the world according to UIL State Speech and Debate Director Jana Riggins. In the last three years, the North Lamar debaters have been very successful. The team of Kelsey Preston and Cody Eilrich placed third in the 2013 tournament and the team of Carver Hodgkiss and Kaitlyn Bull won the 3A State Championship in 2012.
“With the success of our freshmen this year, we are quite encouraged about the future of North Lamar Cross Examination Debate,” Hodgkiss said.
Preston added, “I can’t say enough about what Mrs. Hodgkiss has done for us to help us be successful. She is so respected down here in Austin because she’s one of the best debate coaches in the state.”