Warner Robins High debate team wins several awards

Sun News CorrespondentMay 15, 2013 

The Warner Robins High School Speech and Debate Team includes, from left, Tra’ Morris, Jason Hamilton, Christie Poth, Alex Poth, Misty Miner, Ryanne Popken and Cecilia Cerja.

The Warner Robins High School Speech and Debate Team has had an outstanding year, picking up several team victories as well as several individual awards.

Cecilia Cerja won State in Girl’s Extemporaneous Speaking in the AAAAA GHSA State Literary meet in March.

To compete at the state level, Cerja first won region. At both the state and region levels, Cerja pulled her topic out of an envelope and then had 30 minutes to prepare before she went in front of a panel of judges.

She did some prep work prior to the state competition by staying abreast of current events. During the 30 minutes prior to the actual competition, she did some cramming.

“I took a dictionary, political magazines, articles. I had a whole stack of things.” Cerja said.

Misty Miner won numerous awards this year and qualified for state three separate times in Original Oratory, where she had to write and memorize a 10-minute speech.

“I tried to reveal a different kind of message in my speech,” Miner said. “Just because you don’t necessarily believe in something, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it merit.”

Ryanne Popken and Cassie Malcolm qualified for the National Forensics League National Tournament; Popken in Senate Congressional Debate and Malcolm in International Extemporaneous Speaking. The two students will represent Warner Robins High School at the national tournament June 16-21 in Birmingham, Ala.

“I came to my debate team meeting the same week I started 9th grade,” Popken said. “I enjoy it. I love the challenge of writing a speech, of making your points heard and public speaking. I just fell in love with it.”

Sisters Alex and Christie Poth compete together. Usually Christie takes the con side of an argument while Alex takes the pro.

“It is a division of labor with a lot of preparation,’ said John McClellan, an English teacher and debate team coach at Warner Robins High School. “You need to have a good blend of quality research, passion and strategy.”

“You want to think outside the box when you are making your points,” Christie Poth said.

Topics are assigned by the National Forensics League and range from debate on the federal assault weapons ban to Supreme Court decisions to foreign policy.

Warner Robins also had three public forum teams that finished in the top 10 at Varsity state. Those teams were Popken and Cerja; Jason Hamilton and Cole Conner and Christie and Alex Poth. The Poths were the state runner-up in Public Forum.

To qualify for state, a debate team must attend at least two events and have a top-four finish in a debate that has at least 12 competitors.

Warner Robins was awarded co-championships in Public Forum debate five times at invitational tournaments during the school year and qualified students for varsity state in the categories of public forum, original oratory, extemporaneous speaking and prose/poetry. Freshman Tra’ Morris won fourth place in Prose/Poetry at the First Year/Second Year State Championship.

“Warner Robins High is a great family. We get a lot of appreciation from the school, and the kids get a lot of congratulations.” said McClellan about his team’s successful year.

Along with the team’s accolades for the year, McClellan was named Coach of the Year.

“He is the best coach ever,” said Alex Poth.

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