Sometimes the rewards of competition are medals, trophies or plaques. Sometimes competitors bring home less tangible items as compensation for their efforts.

While the former has been the rule of thumb for most of the season for the Dodge City High School debate team, the latter was the fact of life for the team’s endeavors this past weekend.

A group of eight traveled to Derby last Saturday to compete in the Panther Invitational, and while they did not acquire any hardware commemorating a winning performance, they all returned with something that might have been even more valuable to them.

The squad, made up of two third-year debaters and six second-year debaters, gained valuable experience debating against a challenging field of 30 teams from the Wichita and North Central Kansas.

Despite their youthfulness, the octet still managed a "break-even" weekend and two pairs placed in the top 15.

"I was very pleased that these young debaters were able to hold their own against a field like this," said DCHS debate coach Steve Ray. "To go 10-10 on the day in a competition like this is quite a feat, especially when half the team had never competed in a varsity tournament beforehand. I was very proud of the way the younger debaters performed and I am excited about their future."

The juniors on the team provided strong leadership on the day. The team of Allie Gier and Mariela Lopez finished the day at 3-2 with 18 speaker points to place 12th overall in the Open Division. The team of Guadalupe Hipolito and Alexa Martinez were right behind with a 3-2 ledger and 21 speaker points. They finished 14th.

While they received no medals for their efforts, there was plenty to make them smile. Hipolito ran her season record to 13-7 in four tournaments to become the third Demon Debater to qualify for the 6A State Tournament this year. Gier, another junior, became the fourth when she ran her season mark to 10-5.

That gives her the requisite number of wins to punch her ticket to the state meet, even though she needs another tournament to technically qualify.

Lopez, just a sophomore, also has qualified with a 13-7 standard, as well. Martinez, who is in just her second year as a debater, stands at 5-5 on the year.

The other Dodge City teams had positive experiences, too. The duo of Austin Jacobs and Kylan Hodges went 2-3 on the day to finish 16th. The team of Kale Lowery and Vanessa Rivero had an identical mark to place 17th.

"Our big goal has always been to qualify as many as possible for the 6A State Tournament," Ray said. "We took a major step forward with this tournament."

The Dodge City gang will return to action on Saturday.

A team of eight will travel to McPherson for the "Holy Cow" Invitational Tournament while a second group will journey to Wichita for the Southeast High School Debate Tournament.