Two Payson High School students took state debate titles at the 1, 2 and 3A state championship tournament recently in Bullhead City.
Senior Christina Riepel is the new state champion in extemporaneous speaking, while Kyle Gundlach, a junior, won the Lincoln-Douglas debate crown. The PHS debate team finished fourth overall at the event.
Riepel also qualified for the national debate tournament in two events United States extemporaneous speaking and Lincoln-Douglas debate. PHS, under the tutelage of Wayne Gorry, has sent 14 students to the national tourney in the past four years.
This is the third consecutive year Riepel has qualified for the national tournament. She is active in student government, National Honor Society, teen court, and is a student representative on the Payson Planning and Zoning Commission.
Riepel also ranks third in this year's graduating class of 132. She has earned a debate scholarship to Loyola University in Chicago, where she plans to major in political analysis.
"I've lived in Arizona my whole life," Riepel said. "I've visited Chicago a couple of times, and I really like the diversity."
But first there's her third consecutive trip to the big national tournament, which takes place June 17 to 22 in Charlotte, N.C. The two events she'll be competing in are very different.
"In U.S. extemporaneous, you're given three topics from which to choose," she said. "You have a half hour to prepare using tubs of research we've collected during the year."
Lincoln-Douglas is basically a one-on-one debate on philosophy and values. Students know beforehand what the topic will be.
"We develop cases and positions and go and argue it," Gundlach said. "The topic changes every two months."
The topic Riepel will debate in Charlotte is "Resolved: laws that protect people from themselves are justified."
"Those are laws against suicide, seat belt laws, drug use laws things like that," she said.
Gundlach just moved to Payson this year from Price, Utah, where he qualified for the national tournament as a freshman. Besides his championship in Lincoln-Douglas, he was state runner-up in expository speaking, an event where contestants prepare and give an informative speech.
"Mine was on this disease where people have a psychological need to have their healthy limbs cut off," Gundlach said. "In some cases, they set up guillotines, use chain saws or electric jigsaws, but in most cases they try to have a doctor do it. I first heard about it from this column in the Salt Lake City Tribune called "News of the Weird."
Gundlach also plays guitar with the jazz band at Rim Country Middle School.
The PHS debaters are currently raising money to pay for Riepel's trip to Charlotte. To make a contribution, call Gorry at 474-5670.