CARLSBAD — The Lancers have yet another emerging power in the works — speech and debate.
The Carlsbad High School speech and debate team recently qualified 18 students for the National Speech and Debate Association’s annual national tournament last month in Louisville, Kent. The group, competing amongst 6,000 students from across the country, represented the largest contingent from a single high school.
Junior Nate Watts, 17, the team’s extemporaneous speaking co-captain, and sophomore Chloe Norton, 16, impromptu captain, gave Carlsbad High at least two competitors in the top 10.
Watts said Carlsbad High also qualified 64 students for the state tournament — the most of any high school in California — out of the team’s 110 members this season.
Watts and Norton said the team performed well at nationals and it was a great experience, especially after the past two national tournaments were virtual.
“It’s an extremely impressive number,” Watts said. “Even competing against private schools, that was the single biggest number of any school. Carlsbad High absolutely killed it and I could not be prouder of my team.”
Minnia Curtis has coached the team since its inception, placing an emphasis on collaboration that has led to the team’s growing success, Watts said. Curtis teaches leadership and the nuances of speech and debate. The upperclassmen pay it forward, helping coach the younger students.
The topics are complex. For example, Watts said his national competition centered on whether the U.S. should enter into a bilateral trade agreement with Taiwan.
But with Curtis at the helm, the team has grown into a regional and state power and the students have completely bought in.
“You get to do whatever you find the most affinity with and enjoy,” Norton said. “I do five different events. I love all of them because they all give something different.”
Members of the team may choose from 17 events — five debates and 12 speeches. Students must compete in at least one event in both disciplines, speech and debate, and each comes with its own approach.
Some events feature one-on-one or two-on-two competition formats, and others can be prepared or impromptu subjects, Watts said.
The speech and debate season has three cycles, with three tournaments in each cycle, starting with debate, speech, a mock Congress debate and the one-on-one Lincoln-Douglas event. Each tournament is held on separate weekends and typically run most of the day.
The students are judged in each tournament. Top performers qualify for regionals, state and lastly, the national tournament.
And while the year-long season is now officially over, Watts said there is plenty to be done in the offseason, including practices and freshmen recruitment in the summer before the next season opens just a few weeks after the start of the fall semester.
“We try to get up to speed as soon as possible,” Watts said. “Even before school starts, we’re working as a team, building that relationship and bond that really makes the team special.”