3 is the magic number for debate team

The Southerner

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Tension filled the Westminster auditorium as the clock neared 11:30 p.m., and the Grady Jesters debate team awaited results of the third Georgia Forensics Coaches Association State Varsity Speech and Debate Tournament.
The result: the Grady Jesters had won the state tournament for the third consecutive year.
“It’s a 3-peat, which is awesome,” speech and debate coach Mario Herrera said. “The team can always point back to these moments.”
Herrera said the team should appreciate the results of its hard work and noted this is the first time Grady has had each person on the team place at state.
Herrera and fellow speech and debate coach Lisa Willoughby agree that this was a rebuilding year for the team.
“Most competing members competed at Nationals, so we knew we could do well, but we were concerned because the team is so young,” Herrera said. “I think the entire team felt it was time to step up.”
Herrera said that, over the last 10 years, Grady has created a legacy and developed a strong reputation, and that can be hard for new team members to live up to.
“I have a great respect for this team,” Herrera said. “They don’t compete because they want to winThey compete because they love the thrill of argument and expression though drama.”
Senior Mallory Akard, who competes in original oratory, said the performance at the state competition was about more than just winning. Instead of jumping with joy for the team’s third consecutive win, Akard said she cried tears of sadness because it was the last time she would compete at a local debate tournament with the Grady team.
“At the time I wasn’t interested in the rank, but I was sad to leave something I’ve been in for three years because I’m surrounded by so many really good people,” Akard said.
Senior speech competitor Jahra Gholston said she felt as if she was leaving something behind.
“It was like graduation because it is the last state tournament of our high school years,” Gholston said.
Senior Marius Jackson said the team is much closer this year. Jackson considers the debate team to be the most diverse club at Grady. He added that members from different events interact with each other more than in the past, which makes the team more interesting. He said every one on the team is supportive of one another’s victory.
“The culture across the board in Grady debate is that we are pleased with the success of any Grady student,” Willoughby said.
Willoughby explained that this embodies the motto of Grady: Individually we are different, together we are Grady. She said students who are from different backgrounds come together and support one another at Grady.
Herrera said diversity of thought and expression can be seen on the debate team, and that it is one of the best places to see the true diversity of Grady.
“We attract students from different socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds,” Herrera said.
Willoughby said she enjoys the new energy the freshmen and sophomores bring. She noted, however, that it’s always hard losing seniors because the team hates to lose strong competitors.
“When seniors leave you discover the new strengths of others and they step up to new leadership roles,” Willoughby said. “The team is looking forward to seeing success in the future.”

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