The Dodge City Demon Debaters concluded their 2018-19 season with mixed results at the 6A State Tournament held last Friday and Saturday in Garden City.
Four teams represented the squad at the meet but only one was able to advance beyond the first six preliminary rounds. The silver lining in those results, though, would be that the team that advanced to the elimination rounds was a pair of sophomores.
The four duos that represented Dodge City High School in the competition had a combined four-tournament qualifying record of 61-20.
During the year they won first place titles at three tourneys, second place medals at two more, and fourth place honors at three others. It was for those reasons that those eight individuals were chosen to carry the mantle for their school. Seven other Demon Debaters also qualified for state.
"We would’ve felt confident sending any of the 15 Dodge City debaters who had qualified for the state competition," said DCHS Debate Coach Steve Ray. "These were the debaters with the most experience, though.
"They have been leading us all year."
Ironically, it was the pair that had the least experience that turned in the most impressive performance for Dodge City at the two-day affair.
Sophomores Hever Arjon and Christopher Montford compiled a 4-2 mark in the opening rounds to secure their place in the elimination rounds.
"I can’t tell you how proud I was of these two young men," Ray said. "They faced a very challenging schedule to advance, and they held their own against some of the best teams in the state and possibly the entire country."
The sophomore standouts opened the tournament with a surprising upset of a team from Olathe North that would eventually advance to the second round of elimination.
The Demon Debaters finished the first evening of the event with a 3-1 mark, losing only to the eventual champions from Lawrence Free State, but securing wins over Blue Valley West and a second team from Lawrence Free State.
Both of those squads they defeated would also eventually qualify for the meet’s out rounds. On Saturday, Arjon and Montford split two rounds, losing to a Manhattan team that would finish ninth overall among the 80 teams from 25 schools in the tournament and defeating a quality duo from Blue Valley Northwest.
With a 4-2 ledger, the DC duo became the first sophomore pair from Dodge City to move on to the elimination rounds in over a decade.
Once in the elimination rounds, Arjon and Montford met their third opponents from Lawerence Free State. LFS placed all four of its teams in the semifinals of the tournament and were 3-0 winners in this match despite split ballots from two of the three judges.
"These two young men have worked very hard all year researching their cases and fine-tuning their arguments," Ray said. "I couldn’t be more pleased with how well they did.
"The important thing is they got some remarkable experience opportunities that I know will make them tremendous competitors in the years to come. Their future as debaters is very bright."
As encouraging as the two sophomores’ performance was, Ray was perplexed that the others on the team did not also get the chance to shine at the meet.
Alex Rangel and Daniel Soriano, who brought an 18-2 mark into the meet, Aria Knedler, who was 17-4 on the year, and Allie Gier, Mariela Lopez, and Rileigh Heeke, who entered the meet with 13-7 marks on the season, have proven themselves all year long against quality competition.
However, none were able to advance past preliminaries.
"I was disappointed for them but not disappointed with them," said the eight-year head coach. "They had a tremendous year, but you hate to see it end like this. They can all be proud of what they accomplished this season, though.
"There is such a disparity between the debating styles between teams from Western Kansas and teams from the eastern part of the state. "Since the majority of the judges are from that half, it becomes a real challenge for us.
"I’m not sure I’m ready to say they have a better approach, but in this instance the difference worked against us.
"I know, though, that we have a lot of talented debaters coming back, so I’m excited as I look forward to next year."