DHS debate team competes at State


Seniors Jacob Dority and Ryan Handley, junior Dylan Handley and sophomore Kennedy Farrier pose for a photo after competing at the State tournament at Wichita Southeast High School on Jan. 15.

De Soto High School’s debate team sent eight students to compete at the State tournament on Jan. 15th in Wichita, KS. The Wildcats competed fiercely against the best debaters in the state and were commended by debate teacher and coach, William Mercer, for their efforts. 

“We had an entry in the four-speaker tournament for the first time ever as a 5A school and finished in the top four overall with a team composed of second-year debaters,” Mercer said. “We also had two entries in the two-speaker tournament. While a state trophy is always a goal, I cannot say I am at all disappointed with our team’s results.” 

For senior debaters, the state tournament was their last chance to compete in debate while in high school. Senior Jacob Dority reflected on his final tournament as a Wildcat. 

“I think Dylan [Handley] and I could have done better in our first few rounds. We were really tired the first day,” Dority said. “The judge pool was also not great.” 

Senior Ryan Handley was not satisfied with his last tournament as he also expressed his discontent regarding the judges. 

“I wasn’t satisfied because we were disappointed with our judges,” Handley said. 

Despite coming up short at State, Handley, Dority and the entirety of the DHS debate team had a terrific season. Mercer described the strides his students made throughout the season. 

“There has been a lot of growth in being self-reflective and identifying where individuals need to make improvements,” Mercer said. “Whether that is with argument construction, tournament preparation or just being good teammates, our squad has done great work in identifying needs and addressing them.” 

In addition to the debate team’s growth students also transitioned to a new style of debate. 

“Our more experienced members are adapting to a new style of debate compared to a few years ago,” Mercer said. “We attended a few tournaments that cater to a more technical style of debate, which can be a challenge for students new to the style.” 

However, Mercer’s debaters stepped up to the challenge and were able to adjust to a different style of debate, which according to Mercer, showed a lot about their character. 

“Our kids could have decided to shield away from adversity and returned to the comfort of traditional debate, but instead rose to the challenge,” Mercer said. 

Handley agreed that steering away from traditional debate was an adjustment, but appreciated Mercer’s challenge. 

“Mercer put us in harder pools this year in a much more intense circuit that is more involved with philosophical debate,” Handley said. “He definitely pushed us.” 

Handley, who concluded his fourth year of debate at DHS, spoke to the growth he has made throughout his high school career. 

“Mercer has transitioned my focus from just reading evidence to actually breaking down information and asking opposing teams about specific evidence,” Handley said. 

While high school debate can reach a high intensity at competitions, DHS students found many ways to enjoy the season. Dority detailed some of his favorite memories from his senior debate season. 

“My favorite part is having a class where I can hangout with my friends,” Dority said. “We also watched Impractical Jokers at State, which was fun.” 

Handley also shared some of his highlights throughout his career as DHS debater. 

“I took third at State my junior year which was pretty fun,” Handley said. “The drives to tournaments are fun as well, just being able to mess around with my teammates.” 

While the debate season has come to a conclusion and the careers of seniors like Dority and Handley come to an end, Mercer is optimistic about the team’s future. 

“I think anyone interested in debate that is willing to put in the effort has the chance to be successful in this program,” Mercer said. “Most of our debate squad is first and second-year debaters, so the future is looking bright.” 

With a talented core of underclassmen and an experienced coach, the DHS debate program will look to build off a successful season again next year.