Gahanna Lincoln High School senior Katie Blowers is headed to the National Speech and Debate tournament June 17-22 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Blowers recently earned the district championship title in the high school Lincoln-Douglas Debate and was the only Gahanna Lincoln speech and debate member to recently qualify for the nationals.

"It feels good," Blowers said. "My teammates and I put in a lot of hard work this year, and it's nice to have that hard work pay off."

Gahanna speech and debate coach Leslie Muhlbach said she's looking forward to traveling with Blowers to Fort Lauderdale.

"I first met her as a freshman in my intro to speech class, and instantly knew that her argumentative spirit would be a perfect fit for Lincoln-Douglas Debate," she said. "Her commitment to the activity is remarkable."

Muhlbach said competitors travel almost every weekend between November and March. Blowers missed only one tournament to participate in the Health Occupations Students of America biomedical debate competition, where she and her fellow debaters won the state title last year.

"I am so very proud of her growth in confidence and intellect," Muhlbach said. "She does impeccable research to prepare for each competition and finished the national qualifying tournament with an undefeated record."

Blowers said she was focusing on this month's state competition before thinking about preparing for the June trip.

"After states, I'll find out what the debate topic is at nationals and then I'll start writing cases and practicing with students from schools across the state that have also qualified," Blowers said.

"We have had such a breakthrough season, and are looking forward to continued growth as we are reaching out to offer an after-school program at Middle School South and helping other schools in the Columbus area to start budding programs of their own," Muhlbach said.

The National Speech and Debate Association holds the national qualifier.

Gahanna hosted the district tournament for the Ohio Speech and Debate Association State Finals that were to be held the weekend of March 3 at Sylvania Northview and Southview High Schools in Toledo.

Twenty-one students represented Gahanna Lincoln in a quest to return to the stage to crown a state champion. Blowers placed 18th in Lincoln-Douglas Debate at state finals.

Muhlbach is in her fourth year of teaching at Gahanna Lincoln.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla