Phillip Smith

Phillip Smith competes in the Debate, Drama and Forensics State Tournament on Feb. 11 at Ketchikan High School. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

The Ketchikan High School drama, debate and forensics team finished out its season with a second place win at the state DDF tournament late last week.

The Kayhi team placed in second overall in the tournament.

Kayhi’s public forum debate teams of Henry Clark and Bella Kershaw, and of Francis Sherman and Evelyn Nutt, were co-champions in that event.

Team coach and teacher David Mitchel wrote in an email to the Daily News that he was impressed with the team's performance at the tournament.

"Second place in state DDF for Kayhi is pretty amazing, especially this year when we had zero drama entries, and only a few speeches," Mitchel said.

South Anchorage High School earned first place in the tournament, with a team that was twice the size of Kayhi's and "competitive in every entry," according to Mitchel.

"So to challenge them and beat other large Anchorage schools is a first," Mitchel wrote. "Out of 25 debate teams (we had seven), taking six of eight in quarterfinals, three of the four in semifinals, and the final two is absolutely astounding. There are talented debaters throughout the state and taking first place in speaker points, and first in foreign (extemporaneous speaking) was also remarkable."

Mitchel wrote that the team's success was a testament to the students' motivation and cooperation with each other throughout the season.

"They genuinely had fun through the whole process and all of the competitions, and were all very coachable," Mitchel wrote. "With our success at regions and state, our team performed beyond any expectations I had ... and honestly, I was just hoping to make it through the season and give the team a little bit of an experience."

The Kayhi team also kept its spirits high despite challenges that arose during the tournament (and season) due to the virtual format.

"The students did a great job of adapting to the changing circumstances, and never complained," Mitchel wrote.

Technical issues accounted for many of those problems, like lapses in audio or video feeds disrupting a long speech, or judges leaving the meeting for minutes at a time during events.

Mitchel also shared that during the course of the meet, there was a fire alarm in one school, along with a power outage, and frequent computer issues.

"Through it all, the students stayed focused and were extremely polite and understanding to judges and competitors," Mitchel wrote. "So we all made it work, and got through the tournament without any disruptions that prevented the competition from continuing."

The students look forward to competing in-person next season.

"As do the coaches, because organizing and running a virtual debate meet is truly a miserable experience," Mitchel wrote.

Mitchel sent the tournament results to the Daily News after the tournament ended on Saturday afternoon.

Public forum debate

The teams of Henry Clark and Bella Kershaw, and of Francis Sherman and Evelyn Nutt, were named co-champions, from a selection of 25 teams from around Alaska.

The team of Tristan Dahl and Ashley Anzeuto tied for third place as semifinalists. Jaden Stern and Lauren Olsen, Braxton Zink and Eddie Gomez, and Phillip Smith and Jocelyn Cannon tied for fifth place as quarterfinalists.

Debate speaker points

There were 50 student participants in the debate speaker points category.

Henry Clark took first place, Bella Kershaw came in second place, Phillip Smith earned the fourth place spot, Tristan Dahl came in sixth place, Francis Sherman claimed ninth place, and Evelyn Nutt and Eddie Gomez tied for 10th place.

Foreign extemporaneous speaking

Bella Kershaw placed first, Braxton Zink came in fifth and Henry Clark took sixth place.

Domestic extemporaneous speaking

Tristan Dahl came in sixth place.

Extemporaneous commentary

Evelyn Nutt took sixth place.

Original oratory

Bella Kershaw claimed 10th place.

Metlakatla results

Mitchel also shared that in its second year of participating in the DDF program, a Metlakatla High School student placed as a finalist during the state tournament.

Mason Nelson was named a finalist, taking third place in the solo debate category.

Mason Nelson, James Williams and Aviena Cook were "almost-finalists" during the state event, according to Mitchel's information. Cook placed seventh in extemporaneous commentary, Nelson placed ninth in dramatic interpretation, and Williams was ninth in informative speaking.

DDF Student of the Year

Henry Clark also was named Alaska DDF Student of the Year — the first time that a Kayhi student has won the title.

Clark spoke with the Daily News on Tuesday afternoon, and explained that in order to receive the title, a student has to be nominated by their coach. Then, all of the coaches vote on which student should receive the award.

The title isn't solely based on academic record or how the student performed at the tournament, Clark said.

"It's kind of nice because it's for those students who might not necessarily be the best debater, but they might be some of the best captains or one of the best people to hang out with in debate, whether or not they're on your team," Clark explained.

With the achievement, Clark received a $750 scholarship.

The award came as a surprise to Clark during the state tournament.

"They (the judges) called Mr. Mitchel up, and then he called me up, so then I went up and that's when they told me I got the award, but I didn't even know I was nominated," he said.

"It was kind of nerve-wracking, really, because I didn't know what I was supposed to do, if I was supposed to talk or anything like that," Clark recalled.