LCS debate

Laurel Christian High School 2019 National Speech Tournament competitors, from left, Erin Leist, Neeley Robertson, Cameron Melendez and Claire Douglas.

Speech and debate team freshman becomes first to win national title


The Laurel Christian School Speech and Debate Team ended an impressive year of competition by qualifying for and attending four national competitions. Although many local and regional tournaments are open-invitation, students must qualify to attend most of the tournaments that are offered in the second semester. Claire Douglas, Erin Leist, Cameron Melendez and Neeley Roberston all qualified to attend several national tournaments.

The four varsity members of the team recently attended the Grand National Tournament for the National Catholic Forensics League in Milwaukee. Robertson, a freshman, became the first LCS student to win a national championship at this tournament. Robertson was first out of more than 200 entries in the category of Declamation.

At the national tournament for the National Speech and Debate Association in June, Douglas was in the Top 30 out of 230 national and international competitors in the category of Humorous Interpretation, while Robertson was an octofinalist in the Dramatic Interpretation category. She placed 31st out of 240 contestants. This tournament is the top level of competition in speech and debate. This year’s NSDA was the largest on record, with more than 6,000 entries in the various categories.

This group was also represented at the National Individual Events Tournament of Champions in early May in Omaha, Neb., where Robertson was a quarterfinalist in Program Oral Interpretation and Dramatic Interpretation. At the Tournament of Champions at the University of Kentucky, Douglas was fifth in the category of Humorous Interpretation and a quarterfinalist in Original Oratory.

Earlier in the semester, Douglas became the first LCS student to win first place at the Barkley Forum, winning in the category of Humorous Interpretation. The invitation-only tournament is a national level tournament at Emory University. She was also a semifinalist in Original Oratory, while Robertson was a quarterfinalist in both Dramatic and Program Oral Interpretation. Because of the performance of those two girls and the school’s overall record at this tournament, LCS was chosen as a member school of the Barkley Forum and will become only the fifth Mississippi school to be granted this distinction for outstanding performance.

The team also traveled to George Mason University in December, where all four varsity team members broke to quarterfinals or semifinals in their events, with Robertson winning Declamation and placing fifth in Dramatic Interpretation. 

The LCS team is coached by National Speech and Debate Association Hall of Fame recipient Anita Boyd, who describes the significance of these accomplishments by saying, “This team has earned a national reputation this year, and these four have worked hard to get there.” 

The LCS team must compete against much larger teams in the state before qualifying to attend some of the national tournaments. 

“To be able to compete, advance and win at the national level requires not only talent, but also commitment and hard work,” Boyd said. “These varsity members of the LCS team embody those virtues.” 

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