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The Juneau-Douglas High School debate and forensics team competed in the state tournament this spring at the University of Alaska Anchorage. In policy debate, seniors Lauren Brooks and Christa Fagnant won fourth-place medals. In Humorous Interpretation of Literature, Fagnant won the second-place silver medal. Christie Eriksen was a finalist in Original Oration and she was selected to give her speech at the final event, the Command Performance, at which exemplary pieces were performed in front of all contestants.
At the team banquet, Fagnant was named the outstanding senior debater, while Weston Eiler won the sportsmanship award. Fagnant, Eiler and Eriksen were also recognized as team captains for the 2002-2003 season.
During the season, Eiler complied an undefeated record in Region V, and Eriksen was undefeated until the JDHS Invitational Tournament in March.
Freshmen Brenna Heintz, Kokii Stekoll, Cory Saddler and Clay Wertheimer also competed at state, and each team won some of its debates, said debate coach Bill Ralston. All the above-named students, as well as sophomore Gunnar Miller, earned varsity letter awards in debate and forensics this year.
After 15 years as debate coach, Ralston is stepping down as coach after this season. Ralston cited the recent decision to eliminate the debate class from the JDHS curriculum, as well as interests in coaching middle school soccer and continuing to help with the high school's baseball program as his reasons for stepping down.
"Over the years, I have some great kids on the debate team," Ralston said. "It has been a positive experience, and I will miss it."
In Ralston's tenure, JDHS has placed among the top two debate teams at state twice, as well as placing third and fourth numerous times. Students have won several first-place awards in individual speaking events; however, Ralston has never stressed winning.
A team member said, "He always tells us, 'In debate, you win just by participating. ' "
Ralston said, "I want to thank the teachers and community members who have been so supportive in volunteering time as adjudicators for students' speeches and debates over the years. It really takes a community effort to host successful tournaments, and I owe a lot to parents, teachers, and community members who have stepped forward to help."