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The City Journals

Brighton High’s Debate Team Wins Big at Region

Apr 07, 2016 11:40AM ● By Bryan Scott

By Stephanie Lauritzen | [email protected]

Cottonwood - Holladay - Wondering what makes a debate team great? According to Brighton High School debate coach Jim Hodges, sometimes it comes down to being “just that good.” But beyond raw talent, Hodges also believes his team’s recent success at the Utah Region tournament last February stems from “a deep commitment to the team that I really like. We have a really devoted team, they genuinely like what they do, so they follow through, work hard and practice until they get it right.” 

The Brighton team came in third overall at region, with student Christopher Whimpey coming in first place in congress, Felicia Carter taking first in extemp, Stephanie Tripow earning first in oratory and Ben Hardy winning third place in congress. Hodges notes that the students carefully developed specialized skills for each category, ensuring each one competed well in their given field. 

“Our team is lucky because we have a group of students with a well-rounded menagerie of interests, so everyone can find an area of competition to excel in,” Hodges said. 

For Whimpey, that area is the student congress, where students become mock senators and congress people. During the competition, each debater writes legislation and tries to pass their laws in a session of congress. The event requires competitors to not only write well, but also to develop excellent public speaking skills. According to Hodges, Whimpey is a “natural.” 

“Even though Chris is a relative newcomer to debate, he’s very well spoken, with great oratory skills. He’s bright and smart on his feet,” Hodges said. 

Carter’s first place win in “extemp,” or extemporaneous speaking, stems from life experience. 

“She’s amazingly well read, well traveled and politically savvy,” Hodges said. 

In an event requiring students to present a speech on domestic or foreign policy, commerce and economics, Carter’s education on world events served her especially well. Hodges called her a “renaissance woman with excellent oratory skills”

The oratory competition involves composing and memorizing a nonfictional speech on any issue or topic. The delivery tests the orator’s public speaking skills, as well as persuasive writing abilities. Hodges believes Tripow earned first place due to her passion as a speaker. 

“She’s truly a gifted orator. She’s a fierce competitor, and impassioned about her subjects. She’s only a freshman, so I’m very grateful to have her on the team for a few more years,” Hodges said.

Lastly, Hardy took third place in congress, and like his teammate Whimpey, he’s a natural negotiator. Hodges describes him as “another renaissance student, with the unique talent of negotiating well while ensuring his point not only comes across as reasonable, but is embraced by others. He’s very smart.” As a student athlete in bodybuilding, Hardy brings the dedication he uses to compete athletically to the debate team. 

While this is only Hodges’ second year as coach, he’s looking forward to future years teaching debate and helping students find their unique skillset.  Although he recognizes the challenges of working with “teens with a lot on their plate outside my team,” he finds the work fun and engaging. 

“The time commitment is intense, but if one enjoys what they’re doing, it is absolutely worth it, and I enjoy doing it. From the preparation, to working with the students, it’s hard but rewarding. I love it,” Hodges said.