THS students qualify for national debate tourney

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The new Tupelo High School debate team is less than a year old, but it already has its first two qualifiers for the national tournament.
Juniors John Michael Angle and Phill Milner will participate in the Catholic Forensic League National Tournament, which will be held in Omaha, Neb., during Memorial Day weekend.
Angle qualified in extemporaneous speaking, an event in which contestants are given a question about a topic like economics, politics or technology. They have 30 minutes to prepare a seven-minute speech answering the question.
“It is really exciting doing this well,” he said. “It was Phill’s second competition and my third, and we qualified for nationals. The sky is the limit on what we can achieve.”
Milner will compete in dramatic interpretation. Contestants must take a published work such as a book or a play, condense it into 10 minutes and perform it solo.
Every word in their script must be in the actual work. At the qualifying tournament in Jackson, Milner performed “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” At nationals, he will do “A Child Called It.”
“We are only going to get better and better,” Milner said. “Not just he and I, but the whole team.”
Angle and Milner nearly qualified as a team for public forum debate, but missed the cutoff by one.
Tupelo’s debate team also has an opportunity to qualify for the National Forensic League National Tournament, whose qualifier will be held later in the spring. Angle, Milner and junior Ryan Culp are currently scheduled to compete in that qualifier, which will be held March 26-27 for speech events and April 9-10 for debate events.
It had been about 20 years since THS had an official speech and debate team prior to the program being resurrected this school year. During that time, the school has entered some speech events as part of the drama/theatre department.
“They have just taken the ball and run with it,” THS debate coach Julie Henderson said. “It has exceeded expectations. It is very exciting to be at this level so quickly.”
Both students said their success requires much preparation. Angle said he spends a lot of time every day watching the Fox News Channel or CNN and reading publications like the Daily Journal, Time magazine, The New York Times and The Washington Post to stay informed about current events.
“You need to read it, write it and learn it,” Milner said.

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or

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