Wrightstown High School Forensics members excel in Arizona

Submitted photo
Representing Wrightstown High School, Paige Gilson, Leah Warnecke, and Hanna Finer traveled to Arizona for the National Speech and Debate Association National Tournament from June 12-16 and performed very well.

Members of the Wrightstown High School forensics team knew they would be hot in the Arizona heat as they competed at the National Speech and Debate Association National Tournament from June 12-16. Rather than swelter in the heat, though, they rose to the challenge and came home as one of the hottest Wisconsin speech teams.
The NSDA National Tournament is the largest academic competition in the world and is considered the pinnacle of high school speech and debate competition. Over the course of the week, 6,000 competitors from 2,000 schools competed across the Phoenix-Mesa area. The tournament included representation from all 50 states, along with international competitors.
Wrightstown’s road to nationals began in March when junior Leah Warnecke qualified in the Northern Wisconsin District Tournament in the category of original oratory. Only two competitors in each of eight main stage speech categories can advance to nationals, so competition is fierce. Warnecke was joined at nationals by junior Hanna Finer and senior Paige Gilson, who were selected to fill the team’s allotment of two performers eligible to compete in supplemental events.
Warnecke began the week by competing in six preliminary oratory rounds on Monday and Tuesday at Mountain View High School. Her cumulative score of 31, which included four No. 1 ranks, advanced her to the first elimination round. In five years of attending the NSDA National Tournament, Warnecke is the first Wrightstown performer to break in a main stage speech event. She ended up placing 60th overall in a field of more than 260 and earned the distinction of being the top ranked orator from Wisconsin.
Finer and Gilson joined in the action on Wednesday as supplemental speech competition began at Mesa High School. Both competed in six marathon rounds of prose and poetry. Gilson ranked 1, 1, 5 in prose and narrowly missed breaking to elimination rounds by one point. Finer fared better, though, and her ranks of 4, 1, 1 were good enough to break, putting her in the top 120. Finer’s journey continued as she made the next break, too, and finished in 58th place overall in a field of more than 500.
Coach Dave Winkler, who attended nationals with the girls, was recognized Thursday for earning his first diamond award. According to the NSDA, “a diamond award reflects excellence and longevity in the activity.” A first diamond is earned for accumulating at least 15,000 points and coaching in the association for at least five years.
The National Speech and Debate Association’s mission is to connect, support, and inspire a diverse community committed to empowering students through competitive speech and debate. Next year’s NSDA National Tournament is scheduled for Des Moines, Iowa.