Milbank High School senior, Rebekah Tuchscherer, punched her ticket to the National Speech and Debate Tournament with a top two finish at the Northern South Dakota District Qualifier event last weekend.
She finished second overall in the double elimination tournament, falling just once to a competitor from Watertown. Both will advance to the national tournament, which will be a first for Rebekah. “My goal was to qualify for nationals in Drama and not Lincoln-Douglas,” she smiled. “I had a really good panel of judges and was able to beat a kid from Aberdeen in LD. That was not expected.”
Eighteen students competed in the Lincoln-Douglas debate which went six rounds. The topic for the tournament was In the United States, Private Ownership of Handguns Should Be Banned. Each contestant debated both sides of the issue and then were given time for cross examination and rebuttals.
Rebekah is the first MHS student to qualify for nationals in many years. In 2006 Erik Lambrechts, son of Brian and Becky Lambrechts, was the last student from Milbank to qualify.
Rebekah has been a member of the debate team for four years. As a freshman, she joined debate for Oral Interp and ended up participating mostly in Public Forum. “My freshman year I was also in basketball and really didn’t have much time to devote to debate,” she explained. “My sophomore year, I decided to give up basketball and commit my time to debate. I think I made the right decision.”
She also made a switch to Lincoln-Douglas debate her sophomore year because she found it easier to prepare by herself instead of coordinating time with a Public Forum partner. Rebekah spends between seven and 10 hours per week preparing for her competitions with the bulk of the work occuring during debate practices after school.
Throughout her high school years, preparing and competing has become less stressful for Rebekah. “My freshman year it was very nerve wracking, but I have come to really enjoy writing and public speaking and am quite comfortable with it now.” She has done some things to help reduce the stress of being in front of judges and a crowd. Rebekah takes an active part in her high school classes by answering questions and taking every opportunity to speak publicly. She has been the emcee at the Pops Concert the past two years and often takes part in VFW speeches. Having an English teacher for a mom has also been a benefit to Rebekah. “She often proofreads my papers, but not usually for debate,” she noted.
In preparing for the national tournament, Rebekah will put in endless hours doing research, writing her cases, and preparing blocks and backup evidence. Fellow teammate, Connor Lightfield, will help her prepare. She will also prepare with students from Watertown. The topic for the national event will be released May 1.
Rebekah has made a lot of friends throughout her journey and is looking forward to nationals to expand those relationships. The national event will take place June 12-17 in Salt Lake City, UT. She will be accompanied by Milbank head coach Natasha Hartman.
Rebekah will use her experiences connected to speech and debate to further her education after high school. She plans to pursue a degree in journalism and political science, but is unsure where she will attend college. “I have been accepted by a few colleges, but am still waiting on others before I make my final decision.”