Following a national qualifier Feb. 18-19 at Gahanna Lincoln High School, Gahanna's speech and debate team will send 25 students to the Ohio High School Speech League (OHSSL) State Tournament next week in Toledo and four debaters will head to nationals in Texas in June.

Following a national qualifier Feb. 18-19 at Gahanna Lincoln High School, Gahanna's speech and debate team will send 25 students to the Ohio High School Speech League (OHSSL) State Tournament next week in Toledo and four debaters will head to nationals in Texas in June.

The team of seniors Gram Bowsher and Todd Ives and senior Derek Cox and sophomore Evren Gokcen qualified on Saturday at the Western Ohio District Tournament for the National Forensic League National Tournament set for June 13-19 in Dallas.

Also on Feb. 19, Gokcen and senior Lisa Miller earned a berth to the state tournament, joining 23 other team members who previously qualified.

Qualifying 25 of 42 team members for state competition is a record, according to Lyle Linerode, head coach. In 2007, 18 students participated in the state competition.

Overall, Gahanna placed second out of 22 teams at the Feb. 18-19 event. The top three teams were Dayton Oakwood, Gahanna and Notre Dame Academy.

"This was an awesome weekend for the entire team," Linerode said. "I am so proud of what the kids have accomplished this year. The work they have put in and the team camaraderie has been great this season.

"Not only did we have four national qualifiers, and four final-round placers, but 13 other team members also advanced out of the preliminary rounds."

Bowsher and Ives debated the resolution that Wikileaks is a threat to national security. They will be making their second trip to nationals in June.

In Lincoln-Douglas debate, Cox and Gokcen debated that in the United States, juveniles charged with violent felonies ought to be treated as adults in the criminal justice system. Last year, Cox was first alternate.

In United States extemporaneous speaking, juniors Ameya Kotwal and Louis Naiman also advanced to the final round of competition and were fourth and fifth, respectively. They spoke on current events, including such topics as the economy, politics and international relations.

Senior Jordan Zink placed fifth overall in Lincoln-Douglas debate, while Miller was sixth in original oratory and junior Dan Stemen placed seventh in dramatic interpretation.

Sophomore Ali McCathern participated in the weekend event, making it to the fourth round with her public forum debate partner Martha Hunsucker. The two previously qualified for state.

"There was really great competition, and we got to watch the rest of our debate team qualify for nationals," McCathern said. "It was a great experience."

Junior Evan Schrader said he's "really pumped" competing with this year's team.

"I started last year," he said. "I love it. I'm in oratorical interpretation, taking a speech someone else has written and you try to convince others that you wrote that speech."

At the state event March 3-5 at Whitmer High in Toledo, Schrader said he'll have the opportunity to see different competitors and learn new ways to present.

"I'll see people I haven't seen before," he said. "The speech I'm competing with is a 1998 first-place in original oratorical."

Schrader said Linerode is an "awesome coordinator and runs a good program."

"The assistants also know speech and how to get better. They're also fun," he said.

"Our coaches are truly great," McCathern said. "They're wonderful leaders and mentors to us.

"I'm trying to recruit future students for the team. I tell them it's a good opportunity and looks good when applying for college. There's a spot for everyone, no matter what you're interested in, if you're into theatre or a debater."

In addition to Linerode, assistant coaches include Kristen Juth and Tammy Grieco.