Over a grueling three-day stretch in March, the Wood River Debate Team tackled a range of complex subject matter in the National Forensic League District Tournament in Idaho Falls. When the arguments subsided and the oxygen began to trickle back into the room, three local students had qualified for national competition in June.
Mark Estrebillo-Pedersen, a junior at Wood River High School, qualified to compete in two events in Wichita, Kan., from June 17 to June 23. Estrebillo-Pedersen qualified for both the Lincoln Douglas style of one-on-one debate and extemporaneous speaking, a seven-minute speech judged on clear thinking, good speaking and interesting presentation to establish a definite thought with respect to the subject chosen. Estrebillo-Pedersen has selected Lincoln Douglas for national competition.
Estrebillo-Pedersen is a three-year veteran on the debate circuit and has won awards in policy or team debate, Lincoln Douglas, and student congress. Student congress is where bills and resolutions are argued in a formal style.
"Mark is enthusiastic about debating both sides of the national Lincoln Douglas resolution," said Carol Stilz, Wood River High School debate coach. This year's topic is "In matters of collecting military intelligence, the end justifies the means."
Stilz' assessment of Estrebillo-Pedersen are based on prior experience. Two years ago she coached a student from Rigby High School to the nationals in Lincoln Douglas debate.
Tenny Babcock and Matt Gappmayer also did well in Idaho Falls, placing fifth overall in team policy debate. The duo has earned alternate status for the national competition, meaning that if the winning policy debate team from Idaho cannot attend the Wichita event, they are in.
The National Forensic League, often referred to as "the other NFL," is an honorary organization for high school speech and debate students. The Idaho chapter is the largest in the nation, making competition especially fierce, Stilz said.
The Wood River team has no seniors in its ranks and yet often finds that it is pitted against four-year debate team veterans from other schools. The regional competition featured a double-elimination format and the young Wood River team made a strong showing.
The policy team of sophomores Tawni Padilla and Will Drier went four rounds deep, while the freshman team of Carly Gustafson and Matt Lichtenberg went five. In their third round, the Gustafson and Linchtenberg team defeated the recent Idaho state champions from St. Anthony's South Fremont High School.