The LA Debate Team placed second in the 2020 State Debate Championship. From left: Quinn Straus, Scott Petersen, Emma Weitzman, Riley Stevenson, Erin Dworkin, and Grace Canny.

Lincoln Academy junior Riley Stevenson is the 2020 State Champion in Lincoln Douglas debate, and the Lincoln Academy Debate team placed second in the State Debate Tournament on Saturday, January 25. These achievements follow LA Debate State Championships in 2019 and 2017.

Every LA varsity debater placed in the 2020 tournament, with senior Quinn Straus placing third and junior Scott Petersen placing 5th in Lincoln-Douglas Debate, and the team of seniors Erin Dworkin and Grace Canny placing third in Public Forum Debate.

Riley Stevenson '21 is the 2020 Maine State Champion in Lincoln Douglas Debate

Riley Stevenson ’21 is the 2020 Maine State Champion in Lincoln Douglas Debate

“We are a small but mighty team,” said Stevenson. “Very few other teams in Maine have had the consistent success that we have. Other teams often rely on numbers, earning points with a big team led by a few stars. We have a strong varsity core, with all of our team members working hard for our victories.”

The success is particularly impressive for first-year debate coach Kathleen Halm, an LA social studies teacher who took over the team after long-time coach Matt Leland left LA in the spring of 2019. Halm said, “this year was such a learning year for me. When the season started in the fall I didn’t know all the things I should be doing.” Halm relied on the experienced debaters to help her learn the ropes. “The cohesiveness of the team is amazing. They really work together and support each other. I have learned so much from this group of kids.”

In addition to the LA team’s success in competition, senior Grace Canny was awarded the Maine Forensics Association scholarship for her “hard work and determination” in her high school debate career.During the next round of competition in February, debaters will have the opportunity to qualify for two national tournaments that take place in Chicago and Albuquerque in June of 2020.

Stevenson says her success this year will set her up well for next season, when she will be one of the more experienced debaters on the varsity circuit. “Most of my competition this year were seniors, and they are all graduating. So I will have a leg up next year.”

The LA debate team is still looking for young talent to fill the big shoes that will be left by this year’s graduating seniors. “Debate has been an invaluable part of my high school career that I would not trade for anything,” said Stevenson. “My ability to research and write argumentative essays is so much better because of debate.”

As for the future, Stevenson may go on to study law after college. “I have always been predisposed to writing and arguing. Having an outlet for that is much appreciated by the people I live with, mostly my parents.”