Ketchikan High School students Phillip Smith, Francis Sherman and Evelyn Nutt all have been members of the school's drama, debate and forensics team (coached by David Mitchel) for the past two years.

Smith, Nutt and Sherman also are three of the DDF team's eight seniors who competed in their final regional tournament this past week.

The five other senior members include Henry Clark, Ashley Anzueto, Tristan Dahl, Jaden Stern and Lee Guzman Sanchez.

And with the final state tournament approaching at the end of next week, Smith, Nutt and Sherman spoke separately to the Daily News about their experiences on the team.

Phillip Smith

Phillip Smith has a background in music and theater, which was part of his reason for joining the team two years ago.

"I was originally a theater person ... so that part of DDF drew me in, and eventually I got more encompassed with the debate part," Smith said. "But it was really the theater part that first got me in."

Aside from DDF, Smith also has participated in Kayhi cross country, soccer and baseball, as well as academic decathlon, jazz and pep bands, the wind ensemble and the musical theater club.

Smith also said that the activity has helped him gain "more of a world view" through debate.

"It's a good way to learn different things about the world," said Smith. "It's a good way to form your opinions and grow overall."

Smith continued, "Because since DDF and debate isn't just one side of a thing — you have to learn both sides — it's really helped me understand two sides of an argument and more ... interesting broad topics that I wouldn't have learned otherwise."

One of this favorite topics that he has debated on was the focus of the most recent regional meet, which centered around the pros and cons of the urbanization of West Africa.

Smith said that being able to successfully research the debate "cases" and argue his points built his self-confidence.

But DDF comes with commitment, noted Smith.

"It's a big time commitment because to be able to do it well, you have to have a lot of time set out," Smith explained. "Not just for homework and keeping your grades up and if you have other extracurricular activities, (but) you have to find time within that to do all the researching you need and all the writing you need to be able to do it successfully."

And that dedication has paid off for Smith.

"I'm coming off of a victory, and I'm hoping to keep going" Smith said, referencing the regional meet.

"We (Smith and teammate Jocelyn Cannon) won the tournament overall in debate," Smith said.

Francis Sherman

Francis Sherman — who also a member of the Rotary Interact Club and a former Kayhi wrestler — joined DDF when he moved to Ketchikan two years ago.

"What really attracted me to debate was just, you know, you can do a sport, like wrestling ... but in the end, debate is something that I think will carry on to my years in a professional career, because you get that speaking ability," said Sherman. "You have that public speaking knowledge."

Sherman, who placed second overall at the meet this past week, said that he's learned to be a better public speaker and is angling toward a future career that has to do with speaking.

During his time on the team, Sherman said he also has learned how to improve his writing skills.

"I wasn't a very good writer," Sherman said. "And then kind of during debate, you understand what you need to put into an essay or case, and what you don't need to have."

Coming up with those details and research points is one of the hardest parts of DDF, according to Sherman.

"All the teams that you're competing against, they're all trying to get the leg up on who has better evidence ... so I think the most stressful part is just trying to find evidence that other teams don't (have) and using that effectively toward your case," he said.

Overall, Sherman's performance has improved between his first and last season with the team — which he said was one of the highlights of his career on the team.

"Just from last year, I wasn't very good, and then this year, I was able to excel so much, and that's probably the best part," Sherman commented

Evelyn Nutt

Already a member of Kayhi's AcDc team, Evelyn Nutt recalled that she had never imagined joining the DDF team.

But that changed two years ago.

"I was previously Mr. Mitchel's aide," Nutt explained. "And whenever I would sit in class during his debate class, it looked very interesting to me. The topics they (students) were researching were so out of nowhere and unfamiliar to me, and. I knew that I really loved researching and writing argumentative papers, so I went ahead and joined and I wanted to improve my own public speaking skills, as well."

Nutt said that DDF has helped her learn how to create and defend solid arguments on a variety of topics, although it wasn't always easy.

"Originally, I very confused on how to structure my speeches and how to support all my contentions and evidence, but over time, I really learned how to defend my own points while in the middle of a conversation."

Her most memorable moment on the team came during the most recent meet, when she wasn't expecting her performance to be as strong as possible.

"However, I really pushed myself with my partner Francis (Sherman) and we ended up doing exceptionally well at regions and it was the first time I felt super confident about my case," Nutt remembered.

Nutt said that both AcDc and DDF keep her busy.

"It's been a real challenge," Nutt said about doing both activities. "However, I do both because it really helps me to grow in different areas."

During her time on the DDF team, Nutt said that her teammates have built a "unique dynamic."

"We all are super supportive of each other, and we debate each other in order to practice, and it's a lot of fun because are able to do that while still being extremely respectful for each other," she said.