The Athens Review
After rolling through regular season competition with ease, Meridith McDonald and Madalyn Mikkelsen capped off an amazing year by winning the Class 3A University Interscholastic League State Championship Tuesday in Cross Examination Debate.
It is the first state championship in cross-examination for Athens ISD.
“There is no secret to the success that the Athens debate team has experienced,” Mikkelsen said. “Meridith and I have both spent more than seven weeks at debate camps through our high school careers. We stay after school to practice and we have made sacrifices to get to this point. Those sacrifices just happened to pay off this weekend.”
Debating in the Texas State Capitol in Austin, the dynamic duo faced stiff competition in eight grueling rounds Monday and Tuesday. They finished with sevens wins and one loss.
“Overall, the competition was a great experience,” McDonald said. “While it took eight long rounds to achieve a state championship, it was definitely worth it. It was incredibly exhausting but so exciting. The competitors were all very talented individuals.”
Class 3A silver medalists were Kay Edwards and Kelsey Preston from Paris North Lamar. Third place was split between Wimberly and Chapel Hill High Schools.
“It was such an honor to win state, and I am so happy I had the opportunity to represent Athens,” McDonald said. “It was a great way to end my last year of debate, and our hard work has really paid off. I could not have done it without my coach, my former coaches and teammates.”
Led by coach Jordan Innerarity, Athens ISD also had the top speaker in cross examination as Brock Estep took home the honor along with a gold gavel.
“I was very surprised when I won the award, because of all the other great debaters at the tournament including those from my own team,” Estep said. “I believe that the tournament was a great experience for all four of us and I’m so proud of Maddie an Meridith for winning. My partner Lauren Green definitely played a major role in me getting the award, I wouldn’t have been able to make it that far without her.”
Kimberly Ortleb of Melissa High earned the silver gavel in Class 3A while Crandall, Wimberley and Big Spring rounded out the top five.
Athens competed against schools from Van, Canton, Mabank, Brownsboro and Mineola in the UIL cross-examination district tournament to punch its ticket to state.
Estep and Green claimed first place in district while Mikklesen and McDonald took second.
Third place in district, earning state alternate status, were Skyler Walker and Patrick Moore.
Considered a Texas tradition, the UIL begin in 1910 as the Debating League of Texas High Schools. Since its merger with the Texas Interscholastic Athletic Association in 1912, the league has continued to have active participation in debate.
The topic for the 104th annual cross-examination debate was, “Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its economic engagement toward Cuba, Mexico or Venezuela.”
Mikkelsen totaled the amount of time spent preparing for the debates this year as part of a college application. She was shocked by the results.
“I added up weekly hours throughout the school year for a college application and came to an approximation of 55 hours per week,” she said. “I am so excited to have won. This is something that I decided I was going to do my freshman year, and it feels great to have followed through.”
In all, there were 110 students who qualified for the state tournament in Class 3A. Athens was one of several schools with two teams in the competition.
“Meridith and Madalyn have dedicated hundreds, if not thousands of hours of practice and work to come home with this amazing victory,” Innerarity said. “Not only is this a first for Athens, but Madalyn and Meridith are one of few teams to win the tournament who are both female. The world of debate is very dominated by males and for them to walk away as a team of two women means that they were on the top of their game. There was also another first because the final round, both teams were comprised of only women. Both teams should be proud of making it to the finals and for breaking down these barriers.”
While the success at the state tournament was nice, Innerarity said both teams are quickly turning their attention to the national tournament in June.
“Words can hardly describe the joy that they and the entire team felt with this victory. As their coach, it has been an honor to work with these extremely dedicated students,” he said. “We are now turning our focus towards the National Forensics Leagues’ national tournament held in Kansas City, Kansas in June.”