Students headed to finals all talk

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Students from Pelham and Oak Mountain high schools do their best to out-talk competitors this week at the National Forensic League&8217;s national finals in Wichita, Kan.

In the school&8217;s first year in many of sponsoring a debate team, graduated senior Loren Willis and upcoming senior Brandon Grimes of Pelham High are competing in the public forum category.

&8220;As far as I know, this is the first time a team has ever gone [to nationals],&8221; said English teacher and debate team sponsor Tonya McGairty. Every member of her team started the year with no experience, she said. &8220;It was kind of a learning and growing year.&8221;

The Pelham pair compete together, speaking on private gun ownership, a topic they chose. However, they do not know until just before the round which side of the issue they must argue.

Though McGairty applauds the success of her novice speakers, she fears their inexperience will hurt them in Kansas. &8220;I think they will do well, but at the same time, it&8217;s going to be a whole new ballgame for them,&8221; she said.

Oak Mountain returns its star debater, Scott Grey, to nationals for the second year. An extemporaneous speaker, he placed in the top 60 in 2006.

&8220;He&8217;s probably one of the best I&8217;ve ever seen because he&8217;s very organized in his thoughts,&8221; said Oak Mountain debate coach Joan Huey.

Students entered in the extemporaneous category receive a choice of three topics only 30 minutes before their event, Huey said. Choices cover current U.S. issues, such as terrorism or politics, and must be backed by research sources.

Huey said Grey traveled to Kansas with four or five plastic tubs filled with magazine and newspaper clippings to serve as preparation for his quickly planned presentations.

&8220;He&8217;ll be competing every single day for a week with different topics each time,&8221; Huey said of the senior, who plans to attend Georgetown University next fall. Despite the strain of tackling a different topic each day, Huey believes Grey has both talent and familiarity on his side.

&8220;No matter how he does, this is an incredible accomplishment for him and for Oak Mountain,&8221; Huey said