Poland Students to Attend Speech & Debate Nationals in Kentucky


Poland Seminary’s Speech and Debate team will be attending the national competition this year. It will be held in Louisville, Kentucky, during June 12th through the 17th. Two Poland students, Sofie Myers and Owen Puhl, are competing this year. Myers is a senior, making this her last high school competition, while Puhl is only a sophomore, meaning he has two more years to compete should he qualify. 

Myers, having competed in four tournaments now, has been asked to share her thoughts and additional information regarding this year’s national competition. 

Qualification for the event is the World Schools Debate. To get in, Myers explained to us that she had to write an essay on her experiences within speech and debate. The best essays are picked by the District Committee and will represent the Youngstown District. 

Myers states simply that her main expectation is “to have fun.”

Myers also notes that it is her fourth nationals, and her first one in person since her freshman year. She additionally shares that the team is “very strong and well prepared this year.” 

When asked about her feelings towards the event, Myers expressed, “I am really excited to attend the tournament; I think it will be a fun time.”

Her preparations include team practices Tuesdays and Thursdays for weeks now, researching topics, and practicing her debate skills. 

She wants to break through the first 6 rounds of the tournament and have the team get far as a whole. She states that her other goal is “to take everything in and enjoy [her] last debate tournament ever.” 

Sophomore competitor Puhl has never competed in an in-person national tournament, so while he is feeling slightly more anxious, he also shared the different aspects of his feelings toward the upcoming competition. 

Puhl qualified the same way as Myers did, by writing an essay that was reviewed and selected by the District Committee. He excitedly explained, “I found out about my qualification at the national qualifying tournament in Howland, this February!” 

Puhl remarks that due to Covid, most tournaments the past two years were held online; however, when he competed in the state tournament, “[he] was surprised this year by how organized it was,… and [he’s] expecting a similar experience [at nationals], knowing that the vast pool of competitors will be separated by individual events.”

Puhl has a few additional challenges to juggle in order to make his competing at Nationals possible. One of his struggles is in going from his category, Lincoln Douglas Debate, to the category used in the Worlds Schools Competition, as it is, “a completely different format.”

In order to do his best, and “to master the shift from individualized, planned debate to a collaborative, conversational format, [he’s] been practicing… throughout the spring” and has been “watching sample rounds and informational videos to gain a further understanding of the format.”

Puhl will also be taking part in the Hugh O’Brien Leadership Seminary, or HOBY, which takes place during the same week. This means flying from Kentucky back to Ohio by himself. While this definitely adds to his surely palpable level of stress, Puhl is still more than optimistic, stating, “This is an opportunity like no other, and I’m so excited to be attending the tournament!”

This year, the team will be traveling to the tournament with Poland’s Head Coach Spencer Humphreys.

This trip is coming after months of the team’s hard work and preparation.

Humphreys explains the recent practice dynamic, stating, “The students and coaches brainstorm together and experiment [with] different ideas… [, and then] Coaches will critique and nitpick every area of the student’s presentation.”

This competition is very serious, and while Humpreys expresses that “[their] goal for Nationals is the have a fun and safe trip,” it is also “to perform [their] speeches to the best of [their] ability and learn from the other competitors.”

In terms of the actual competition, Humpreys chief concern is “that there will be unexpected popular styles… With everyone coming from all over the country where different districts have different expectations, you never know what kind of speeches you will see at the upcoming National tournament.”

However, setting the tone for his team’s optimistic outlook, Humphreys says, “Trial and error is one of the ways that a competitor learns, improves, and grows.”

Overall, the competitors and coach for Poland’s Speech and Debate team are all extremely excited for this momentous competition. There is little doubt that Myers and Puhl will do anything short of extraordinary during their time at Nationals.