Local student finalist in national competition

DES MOINES, IA (July 12, 2017) — From more than 150-thousand student members of the National Speech & Debate Association (NSDA), we are proud to recognize the top finalists in the world’s largest academic competition. The National Speech & Debate Tournament was held in Birmingham, Alabama June 18-23, 2017 with more than 4,000 qualifying competitors. The top placing students not only took home a National Championship title and awards, but more than $200,000 in scholarship money.

“It is quite an accomplishment to qualify to the National Speech and Debate Tournament,”said J. Scott Wunn, Executive Director of the National Speech & Debate Association.  “Only 3% of high school speech and debate competitors qualify, and less than 1% of speech and debate students can call themselves a national champion. These students are extraordinarily talented and we look forward to the great things they will do with their talents in the future.”

We’re proud to recognize the top six National Speech and Debate Tournament finalists in Dramatic Interpretation:

6th place

Rebekah Umansky

NSU University School – Fort Lauderdale, FL

Coached by Bill M. Thompson, Danny Swerdlow, and Robert Sheard

5th place

Ezequiel Gonzalez

Ben Davis High School ― Indianapolis, IN

Coached by Fred Douse

4th place

Abigail Stewart

Ardmore High School ― Ardmore, OK

Coached by Brian Lane Gunter

3rd Place

(Receiving a $250 scholarship)

Tayland Ratliff

Comeaux High School ― Lafayette, LA

Coached by Jacob Simon

2nd Place

(Receiving a $500 scholarship)

Maddie Guy

Saint Mary’s Hall High School ― San Antonio, TX

Coached by Joseph Muller


(Receiving a $1,000 scholarship from Simpson College and a $5,000 scholarship from EF Hutton)

Chase Garrett

Southside High School ― Greenville, SC

Coached by Jason Eric Johnson and Weslica Johnson

About National Speech & Debate Association

The National Speech & Debate Association is the largest interscholastic speech and debate organization serving middle school, high school, and collegiate students in the United States. The Association provides competitive speech and debate activities, high-quality resources, comprehensive training, scholarship opportunities, and advanced recognition to more than 150,000 students and coaches every year. For 90 years, the National Speech & Debate Association has empowered more than 1.5 million members to become engaged citizens, skilled professionals, and honorable leaders in our society. For more information, visit

About the annual National Speech & Debate Tournament

The NSDA has hosted the National Tournament in cities across the country since 1931. The 2018 National Tournament event will be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL with the 2019 event to be held in Dallas, TX.  For more information, visit


Shelby Young
National Speech & Debate Association
(920) 748-6206

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