BLHS forensics squad on a roll
David Ralph is having a banner year.
"This year is kind of a landmark year," said Ralph, Basehor-Linwood High School forensics and debate teacher. "It's going to put us on the map, as far as we're here and we're going to compete."
The high school's debate season went better than expected, Ralph said. And the forensics program also has had a good year.
Four forensics students have qualified for nationals, and the team, individually and collectively, has picked up numerous other wins as well.
At last weekend's forensics tournament in Ottawa, BLHS took first place, beating Olathe North by 55 points.
"I was really proud of my students," Ralph said. "They proved that they can compete with anyone in the surrounding area."
For the team, this kind of success has been par for the course so far this year. While Ralph is humble about his role in the winnings, he's quick to express pride in his students.
"Every forensics tournament we've been to so far we've been in the top three, so it's been kind of an amazing ride," Ralph said.
Ralph, who is in his first year of teaching at BLHS, says he modeled his program after the one in nearby Tonganoxie. Five years ago, while Ralph was a student at Kansas University, he worked at THS for a short time with debate and forensics coach Steve Harrell.
"I got to work a little bit on that program, and that's one of the places where I learned what it takes to be a success," Ralph said. "I said the schools are six miles apart ... they (Tonganoxie) can compete against anybody in the state -- why can't we."
With an attitude like that, it's no wonder the team has amassed 62 individual medals. In their path, the BLHS forensics team also has placed at these meets: third at Turner, third at Fort Scott, third in league and first at Holton.
At the March 13 Catholic forensics league tournament at Shawnee Heights, these four BLHS students qualified for national competition: James Nel
son, persuasive speaking; Amy Rousselo, persuasive speaking; Sam Neal, extemporaneous speaking; and Alexandria Kneidinger, dramatic performance. Ralph noted that Alexandria is an exchange student from Austria.
Now that the team has qualified for nationals, which will be held Memorial Day weekend in Boston, the trick will be to get them there. For the complete trip for the four students, two adult chaperones and Ralph, the cost will be about $3,300. That includes airfare, lodging and meals.
Don Swartz, executive director of business and facilities for the Basehor-Linwood school district, said the district fully funds expenses for competitions sponsored by the Kansas State High School Activities Association. However, he said the district does not fund trips to national competitions.
In Tonganoxie, however, the school district does pay for national competitions as well as those closer to home.
Right now, Ralph said, he's not sure where the money for the trip to Boston will come from. But one avenue he's considering is a variety show that would spotlight the events students have prepared for competition this year.
"Some will be serious stuff," Ralph said. "And some will be designed to make you laugh."