The Dodge City High School debaters were unable to start their season with a sweepstakes championship for the first time in five years.


According to DCHS debate coach Steve Ray, the Demons have begun the past four campaigns winning the Great Bend Tournament of Champions three times and the Halstead Dragon Debate Tournament once, but they were unable to keep their streak alive this past weekend.


Due to COVID-19, changes were made to formatting and competition as the debates took place during the first virtual online policy debate tournament in the history of the state of Kansas on Sept. 18-19 at Washburn Rural High School.


"We made a commitment to winning the first tournament of the season several years ago because we felt it was important to start each year off on the right foot," said Ray. "The truth is, we have had a lot of success in season-opening tournaments in the past few years, but it is unrealistic to believe you win the first tournament of the year every single year.


"It’s ironic that this is the year where we fell short because this is one of the strongest teams we’ve had at DCHS since I’ve been here."


All of the rounds were done online rather than face-to-face with a total of 109 teams from four states competing in the two-day event that had judges stationed remotely in various places around the Midwest.


"I know the kids were very nervous because of the possibilities of issues with technology," Ray said, "in fact, a lot of us coaches also felt a little intimidated because this is the first time any of us have had to work within these parameters."


The novice entry of Xania Cobian and Vivian Nguyen were the top DCHS team, according to Ray, as the team finished 2-2 tying for eighth place.


Nguyen finished ninth in the Novice Division, with Cobian finishing 11th.


For varsity, the duos of Hever Arjon and Christopher Montford, as well as Brian Nguyen and Mariela Lopez, finished with 2-4 marks. Each duo had qualified for the 6A state tournament the past two years.


"They all did a great job, but they were up against some outstanding competition," Ray said after the meet. "They learned in this tournament, though, that they can compete with anyone."


Also finishing 2-4 in their varsity debut were the duo of Charlee Bitler and Alexandra Morales in the Open Division.


"This was a great learning experience for all of us," Ray said. "I have the greatest of confidence in these debaters and expect great things from them down the road."


The Demon Debaters will be in action this Saturday as they compete in the Halstead Dragon Debate Tournament, a meet they have won twice and second twice in the past four years.


To contact the writer, email vmarshall@dodgeglobe.com