Matt Stefanko and Lisa Beard went undefeated in a small but talented field to take the championship at a regional debate competition last week at Rosemount High School.
Stefanko and Beard were one of two RHS policy debate teams to qualify for this weekend's state debate tournament. They'll be joined by policy debaters Ryan Kirkley and Wesley Just, who finished third in the regional competition, and Lincoln-Douglas debater Devin Awe, who finished fifth.
The regional competition consisted of six policy debate teams and eight Lincoln-Douglas debaters. All of the competitors were from District 196 schools.
"Even though it's small, they're high quality programs," RHS coach Cort Sylvester said.
Last week's regional win was the latest addition to a successful season for Stefanko and Beard. Along with Kirkley and Just they have spent much of the season traveling the country to compete. They competed in a tournament at Wake Forest University and have debated in Iowa and Chicago as well.
"Ryan and Wes have had a very competitive season," Sylvester said. "They have been just on the edge of missing out on elimination rounds at a majority of their tournaments. They actually have one of the best winning percentages I've ever had for a team."
Stefanko and Beard have earned one of two bids they need to qualify for the national Tournament of Champions. They narrowly missed earning their second at a late-December competition at the Blake School, but they'll have another opportunity in February in a tournament at the University of California-Berkley.
The Tournament of Champions has been hosted for the past 30 years by the University of Kentucky. RHS last had a team qualify in 2005.
"It is sort of the most elite national championship tournament in the country," Sylvester said.
Sylvester believes Stefanko and Beard have a chance to qualify. Even if they don't earn a second bid in the Berkley tournament their single bid will allow them to apply as an alternate. Last year the tournament accepted all of the applications from alternates. Sylvester doesn't expect that to be the case this year, but he believes the RHS debaters have a good chance to be competitive.
For the moment, though, the focus is on the state competition Friday and Saturday. Stefanko and Beard advanced to the quarterfinals at state last year.
"We'd like to improve on that showing," Sylvester said.
Following state tournament the debaters will prepare for the National Forensics League national qualifier.