There’s no “debate” that Granbury High School students are talented — and that’s especially true for sophomore Maddie Neal and freshman Carmen Wright.
After placing second in the University Interscholastic League (UIL) Cross-Examination (CX) district meet Friday, Jan. 19, the pair officially qualified for the UIL state meet set for March 11-16 at the University of Texas at Austin.
“It wasn't expected,” Wright said. “I 100% thought we were going to crash and burn and make up for it next year.”
“I knew going in that this was going to be a practice year and that as our first year, it was going to be a learning experience and something new, so when we made state, my jaw dropped," Neal said.
UIL Academic Speech and Debate coach Shyller Byrom told the HCN that although their success suggests otherwise, both Neal and Wright are new to the team.
“They're both what I still would consider novices,” Byrom said. “But they obviously have some talent.”
Not only did the duo succeed in the UIL CX district meet, they also finished second place in Joshua High School’s UIL Academic Invitational meet the following day, Saturday, Jan. 20.
“They got state qualified and the very next day, we went to just a practice tournament, and so they're like, ‘We got this’ and then they just went in there and kicked booty all day long,” Byrom said.
“Yeah, we were a lot more confident walking into that one, like, ‘Well, we already have state under our belt so we can't really do that bad,’” Wright said, chuckling.
Both Neal and Wright said they chose to join the debate team after realizing a close family member had also been a part of the debate team when they were in high school.
Wright said she prefers to debate on political ideologies, as they're “very fact based.”
“There's a lot of evidence to support or go against it, so it isn't an easy topic to debate on because you can only really have one stance,” she explained.
As the duo started out on the team, Byrom said they first started learning LD — Lincoln-Douglas debate — which traditionally places a heavy emphasis on logic, ethical values and philosophy.
"LD debate is also known as gossipy debate,” she explained. “The LD stands for Lincoln Douglas. As you know, (Abraham) Lincoln and (Stephen) Douglas had a debate about civil rights and that was a very philosophical debate, so we kind of copy that. LD has different topics throughout the year; it changes every two months, but they both decided that they didn't like the gray area of LD because it's super philosophical.”
Cross examination debate — the type of debate Neal and Wright excelled in last month — is also known as policy debate and typically features a political topic.
“This year, it's basically the federal government giving Americans a basic income, and there's some specific wording and that resolution stays the same all year long,” Byrom explained.
“UIL debate competition motivates students and provides them with practical application for the skills they are developing,” said Jana Riggins, UIL state debate director, in a news release. “This year’s debate topic prompted students to research and form their own thoughts and opinions on the real-world issue our government is challenged with: Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase fiscal redistribution in the United States by adopting a federal jobs guarantee, expanding social security, and/or providing a basic income.”
Next month, the girls will spend their spring break in Austin at the state tournament — even if it means cutting their New York trip short.
Results from the Jan. 20 UIL Debate Tournament in Joshua are listed below: