Photos courtesy Republic High School Speech & Debate.

Off the Field: Speech Wins One Championship and a Runner-Up Finish at State

We’re stepping Off the Field to take a closer look at some of the Republic students who are competing in non-sports activities. Our report is brought to you by State Farm Agent Sarah Rader. Talk to her about how you can save money by combining your home and auto insurance.

by Taylor Massey

It’s been thirty-five years since Republic last had a state champion in speech and debate — and now it has two. Maecie Liska and Kennedy Silvey, a pair of freshmen, teamed up to become champions in Duo Interpretation. They’re the first state champions under RHS coach Karissa Talty.

Liska and Silvey were just part of the success experienced by Republic’s team at the state tournament. Two other students, junior Chantal Ogbeifun and senior Talonah Sterling, finished second in public forum debate.

Liska and Silvey had competed in speech and debate throughout middle school, but this year as freshmen, they decided to perform a duo together. The title of their performance is Girls with Sharp Sticks, based on a book they have cut down to be less than ten minutes in length. They have placed in tournaments consistently throughout the past few months and placed second at MSHSAA districts, securing their spot for the MSHSAA State Tournament at Missouri State University.

The same goes for Ogbeifun and Sterling. The two have done Public Forum during their time in high school, but recently found themselves debating together. As a team, they have placed at multiple invitationals throughout the year and also placed second at MSHSAA districts.

At the state tournament, all four competed against the top performers from all nine districts in Missouri. After preliminary rounds, the freshman duo had high enough scores to break into finals, where they had the best overall rankings by judges. Ogbeifun and Sterling made it to quarterfinals as the number one seed in the tournament.

Liska and Silvey found the state tournament to be a memorable experience for them, especially as freshmen without much experience in tournaments of this caliber.

“We were basically up against the top three duos from every district in our state, so it was a challenging experience as a freshman. Seeing our friends from different schools cheer us on when we received our award was also one of my favorite experiences so far this season,” said Liska.

“The most memorable part of the state tournament was when. . . Talty told us we got eighth, which isn’t bad, but we were a little disappointed. But when they continued calling codes that weren’t ours, we gave each other a look, and I’m sure we were both thinking the same thing. Then, they called first place along with our names, and it was something I will never forget,” said Silvey.

Sterling said her and Ogbeifun’s placement was the most noteworthy moment of the tournament.

“The most memorable moment was finding out we were state finalists! An honorable mention would be going into quarterfinals as the first seed in the tournament,” she said.

The last state champion from Republic in any event was Stacy Yocum, who won in Poetry Reading in 1987.

Competition is not yet over for the team. The two qualified for two national tournaments this summer in Washington D.C. and Louisville, Kentucky. They will compete against at least 100, but likely more, duos from across the country.

Ogbeifun and Sterling will participate at nationals in Washington, competing in Extemporaneous Speaking and Original Oratory, respectively. Sterling will join other students from Republic’s district on a World Schools Debate team at the tournament in Louisville.

Silvey said she is excited about the trip to nationals for more than the competition.

“I am looking forward to getting to spend more time with the seniors on our team who are leaving, and getting to meet new people. Debate is a place where you are constantly meeting people who have the same interests as you, so I can’t wait to meet new people there. I am also excited about the fact that this is the first in-person nationals in two years, and the fact that Maecie and I get to be a part of it as freshmen is crazy,” said Silvey.

The tournament in Washington D.C. is scheduled from May 27-29, and the one in Louisville runs from June 12-17.

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