Highland Debate Team Finishes 5th at State but First in Team Captain’s Eyes


Laynee Hall, News Editor

Oftentimes when students think of debate the first thing that comes to mind is a stressful image of public speaking in front of a crowd, judges, and their peers. The mere thought of standing behind a podium addressing an audience is enough to trigger fear in many, and is a deterrence many students encounter when considering being a part of the debate team. However, when students just see debate as a space for fear due to speaking in public, they miss the incredible support of a team, teacher, and the opportunity to build lifelong skills that come alongside this activity with an argumentative nature.  

Dylan Koerselman, Highland senior and debate team captain, is no stranger to the fear that can coincide with the speaking parts of debate. However, as the leader of this year’s team, he’s made sure to set an example for his peers that reminds them that’s its ok to be scared because debate is a learning experience for everyone involved.  

“I wanted to make sure to let everyone know that even though debate can be nerve-wracking sometimes, it’s all in good fun,” said Koerselman. “It’s important to not take it [debate] too seriously and to keep an open mind about your teammates and other people’s perspectives.”  

For Koerselman, debate has given him the opportunity to be more confident and grow as both a resourceful student and public speaker. 

“It [debate] has made me more confident in talking with people and public speaking because it’s one of the big parts of debate,” Koerselman said. “It’s also helped me in being open-minded to the fact that there are two sides to every idea or discussion and that it’s important to be knowledgeable about where you get your sources from.” 

Participating in debate has allowed Koerselman to understand the importance of perspective in arguments and discussions, but it’s also allowed him to understand how much the activity can help people grow.  

“You can definitely grow in debate because there’s a whole class full of people who are there to support you and encourage you along the way,” Koerselman said. ”Even though you may be shy your first couple times speaking you essentially just have to keep doing it and eventually it will become less fearful.” 

This year, the highland debate team placed third in regions and took fifth at the state level. According to Koerselman, the team had to fight to get to state this year starting at the region level, but pulled it off overall by placing within the top five debate teams in Utah. 

“We didn’t do the best in regions, but we definitely had a strong finish to the season at state,” said Koerselman.  

Having to come together to make it to the region and state competitions also brought the team even closer together, Koerselman explained. 

“I think that [placing well] really brought the team together, especially in class because the next time we had it [class] everyone was talking to each other and hyping each other up.” Koerselman said. “It was really impressive to see everybody all cheering on and supporting one another.” 

Even though Koerselman is a senior this year, he is hoping that the team can take this motivation from placing well at state into their future debate seasons. 

“I hope the class continues to grow and thrive and that each team member is able to build up their own personal skills and start winning some medals for the Highland debate team.” Koerselman said.