Park City High School’s debate team is eager for success this season

Members of the Park City High School debate team won several awards at the Beehive Bonanza earlier this month, the team's first competition of the season. The coach, Sharon Ellsworth-Nielson, says the team is off to a great start.
Courtesy of Sharon Ellsworth-Nielson

The Park City High School debate team has been at the top of its game the last few years, and as the team steps into this season, members anticipate another remarkable year.

Many veteran debaters are returning with their eyes set on big achievements, while newcomers are jumping into the competition scene eager to prove themselves.

At the Beehive Bonanza, the team’s first competition this season, almost half of the 28 students who attended were either new to debate or new to the high school’s team. Still, team members walked away with top placements.

Sharon Ellsworth-Nielson, coach of the team, said her favorite part of the competition was seeing the more-experienced debaters helping out the rookies and cheering them on.

“I love watching the older ones, in between their rounds, sitting and prepping with the young ones,” she said.

Ali Aldous, a sophomore, was one of those students. She was new last year and is a mentor this year. She said it is fun to see how far she has come. At the competition, she was a semifinalist for her event.

Zach Primo, a junior, said there seems to be a large wave of incoming members, which he said is great because it “gives life to the program.” He is excited to see that the program is continuing to grow.

Ellsworth-Nielson said the reason so many students appear to be joining and excelling is that success breeds success. Students want to be a part of the group that is winning the trophies, because the debate team has placed well in state and national competitions over the last couple of years.

Every year, there are about 55 to 60 members on the team, Ellsworth-Nielson said.

The team has high hopes for this year, especially after ranking high in national tournaments for the first time ever last year.

“We started seeing a new level of success nationally,” Primo said. “Last year was huge, and we are seeing a continuation of that this year.”

He said the team plans to send even more students to national tournaments this year.

Kristina Schiffman, a junior, said the team wants to maintain its winning streak, so it is driven to accomplish big things this year.

Ellsworth-Nielson said students learn invaluable skills from the program, such as how to fail or how to give an impromptu speech. Plus, the team is like a family.

“The sense of community is extraordinary,” Primo said.

The debate team has a tournament this weekend, and will be hosting a tournament at the high school the following weekend.


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