The Gahanna Lincoln High School speech and debate team took top honors among central Ohio high schools Feb. 15-16, when Gahanna hosted the Western Ohio District Qualifier of the National Forensic League.
Overall, Gahanna placed fourth in debate and seventh in speech out of 19 competing teams. Seniors Ali McCathern and Evren Gokcen qualified for the national tournament in Lincoln Douglas debate, and junior Sedona Rosenberg qualified in United States extemporaneous speaking.
McCathern and Gokcen will be returning to nationals for the second time.
Individually, they successfully debated whether retribution or rehabilitation should be prioritized in the United States criminal justice system.
"Qualifying is a great honor because you're among the best 250 people in your event," McCathern said. "Over Friday and Saturday, I had a total of seven rounds to debate. I could only lose one round. It's a long process."
She said being part of the speech and debate team has given her the confidence to say what she believes is right.
Gokcen said he knows what to expect at the next level, since he competed at nationals as a sophomore.
"When I first went there, I was star-struck," he said. "This is a second chance to do what I wanted to do the first time. My main goal is to enjoy it now that this is my senior year. Doing well would be nice."
Gokcen said speech and debate has honed his skills to properly communicate.
"Verbal communication is so important," he said.
Rosenberg qualified in extemporaneous, discussing topics such as the political process, partisanship and economics.
"Qualifying for nationals, I was surprised," she said. "There was tough competition. I have a great coach and wonderful team. I'm excited to go to Alabama with two of my teammates."
The national tournament will be held June 16-22, in Birmingham, AL.
"I am so proud of not just the three qualifiers, but the entire team," said Lyle Linerode, head coach. "They have worked so hard this year and deserve this honor."
Upper Arlington and Mount Vernon both qualified public forum debate teams, Bexley had an alternate in policy debate and Worthington Kilbourne had an alternate in Lincoln Douglas debate but no other teams qualified or placed in the top from central Ohio, Linerode said. The other central Ohio team attending was Dublin Jerome.
Oakwood was debate champs and Mason took first in speech.
Other weekend results for Gahanna students include senior Angie Stewart placing fourth in original oratory and junior Sumeet Kotwal taking seventh in United States extemporaneous speaking.
Advancing to the semifinal round of original were seniors Emily Jadwin and Jennie McAndrew.
Students advancing out of the preliminary rounds were Loie Greenwood in original; Brandon Muschlitz, Wesley Thompson, and Stacy Studer, in international extemporaneous speaking; Alexis Lucas in US extemporaneous speaking; and Summit Rosenberg in humor.
Debaters advancing past preliminary rounds were Sibi Sengottuvel and Nick Pagliaro in Lincoln Douglas debate; Nathan Power, Matthew Zianni, Jassy Da Silva, Skye Booth, Allie Paulk, and Nichole Kirk in public forum debate.
In addition to Oakwood and Mason, other schools in the Western Ohio-NFL competing were Beavercreek, Maumee, Middletown, Notre Dame Academy, Perrysburg, Princeton, St. John's Jesuit, Sylvania Northview, Sylvania Southview, Wauseon and Whitmer.
Gahanna Lincoln will next compete Feb. 28-March 2 at the State Tournament at Boardman and Canfield High schools.
The team is coached by speech and debate teacher Linerode, English teacher Kristen Juth, and volunteer Bruce Mann.