It was a bit of a trip and some stiff competition from students from some big name schools, but the Howland Speech and Debate Team walked away with a lot to be proud of, according to adviser Thom Williams.
Williams said about 17 team members from Howland competed in the National Catholic Forensics League competition May 23 and 24 at the Empire Center in Albany, N.Y. There were 2,100 students competing with about 200 in each event, Williams said. Howland won the team championship out of about 510 schools.
Individual winners from Howland included: Menisha Mehta, who placed sixth in international extemporaneous speech; Chris Kiriako, who was an octofinalist in the Lincoln Douglas Debate; and Alex Draime, who took first in domestic extemporaneous.
"Well, it's always exciting to see my kids do that well," Williams said about his winners. "(Alex) has been working for this for several years. It's nice to see him finally reach that goal he set for himself."
Draime, standing next to his trophies in his kitchen, said his event was a tricky one. A topic is chosen at random during the debate, and contestants are given about half an hour to write a convincing seven-minute speech. Draime said they drew a question, which was a topic about the No Child Left Behind Act.
"I had some good material. It felt like I was on a bit of a hot streak," Draime said.
Draime spends a few hours each week combing through journals and thinktank reports about domestic policy. He keeps clippings he thinks could be relevant to an event in three big files, although he has to work from scratch during a competition.
The high school senior wants to one day study economics at Notre Dame, which he said fits in with his speech category.
"Luck is the product of hard work," he said.
Williams said one of Draime's strengths is his ability to retain information and work under pressure. As for his weaknesses, Draime said he had a bit of a blind spot for celebrity gossip and pop culture, which have popped up in previous competitions. He said he was stumped once by a question asking if America was too obsessed with icons such as Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and Terrell Owens.
Williams said the group's next trip will be to Birmingham, Ala., for the National Forensics League tournament. The competition is June 13 through 20, according to its Web site.