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Debate champs: SEB team advances to national finals

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Posted: March 2, 2008 8:48 a.m.
Updated: March 17, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Debate champs: SEB team advances to national finals


Southeast Bulloch High School debate team members enjoyed a successful year and an even better February as they qualified for the National Forensic League's National Championships. The forensics (the official term for debate) tournament is set for June 15-20 in Las Vegas.

            School principal Joni Walker-Seier said SEB students are proud of the team's accomplishment.

            "Most definitely. Our school is very proud of this team," she said. "The caliber of these students contributes to SEB being a Georgia School of Excellence. I appreciate the dedication they have and the time they spend preparing for these debates. I also appreciate the commitment of their coach, who puts in the time and work to prepare these students for their tournaments."

            Phillip Oliver is the debate coach for Southeast Bulloch. He also coaches the golf and chess teams. He said he's incredibly proud of his students and is encouraged by their growth as a team.

            "It's really been a landmark year for us here at Southeast Bulloch," said Oliver. "As a debate coach, it's impressive to me when you beat teams from all over the country."

            Oliver said the students really have to be prepared to argue both sides of the debate topic since a coin toss before each debate determines whether the team argues the affirmative or the negative point of view.

            "You've got to be ready," Oliver said.

            Three seniors will represent SEB at the national tournament. Sam Strozzo will participate in the Original Oratory category and is a first alternate for the Lincoln-Douglas Debate. Strozzo won the Georgia Southern District in Original Oratory and claimed victory in four other Georgia competitions in the Lincoln-Douglas category.

            Derek Cowart, team captain, and Aaron Groover form one of SEB's Public Forum debate teams and are also heading to Vegas. On the way to their championship performance in the Southern District, the team beat last year's champion and took down debate powerhouse Starr's Mill HS to earn their national championship berth.

            All three young men also competed at last year's national championship in Houston marking the first back-to-back national appearance for the Yellow Jackets in forensics.

            Senior Amber Seymour and sophomore Hillary Luna make up the other SEB Public Forum debate team. They placed in the top 10 at the Southern District competition and made it to the second stage of the Barkley Forum.

            The nationally prominent Barkley Forum is a forensics tournament held every year at Emory University. About 60 schools from around the country fielded 109 teams in this year's event. SEB was the only Georgia school and the only public high school in the country to successfully advance two teams into the double octagonal elimination round – another notable accomplishment for the team,

            Southeast Georgia has not traditionally been strong in debate. However, Southeast Bulloch is making a name for themselves in the forensics world.

            "When we first started showing up at tournaments people always thought we were from Atlanta," said Oliver. "They certainly know our name now."

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