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District 196 students and schools earn national speech and debate honors

Three District 196 students won national championships and Apple Valley, Eagan and Eastview high schools all won top team honors at this year’s National Speech and Debate Association national tournament, which was held online June 15-19 due to restrictions for COVID-19.

For the second time in school history, Eagan won the Bruno E. Jacob Award, presented to one team each year with the highest number of accumulated rounds of competition in national tournament main events over the course of time. After a school receives the award, they start from zero again and begin accumulating rounds toward another award. Eagan won the Bruno E. Jacob Award for the first time in 2005 and Apple Valley won it in 1998 and 2019.

Eastview was one of only 10 schools to be named a School of Outstanding Distinction in Speech and Debate based on the number of rounds of competition their students completed in both speech and debate during this year’s tournament. In addition, Apple Valley was named a School of Excellence in Speech and Eagan was named a School of Excellence in Debate, recognizing the top 20 schools in each category at the 2020 national tournament.

Seven District 196 students advanced to the final round of competition (top six) in their category: Semaj Lee of Apple Valley won first place in dramatic interpretation after taking third last year; Jessica Connors and Jonah Johnson of Apple Valley are national champions in duo interpretation; Campbell Bernstein and Jordan Adams of Eastview finished runners-up to Connors and Johnson in duo interpretation; Ceceilia Voss of Apple Valley took third place in informative speaking, and Veeravikash Giritharan of Eastview finished fifth in U.S. extemporaneous speaking. 

A total of 35 District 196 students qualified for this year’s national tournament, 13 from Eastview, 12 from Eagan, nine from Apple Valley and one from Rosemount High School. In addition to the seven finalists, 19 others advanced to the elimination rounds. Semifinalists included Allison Hering of Eastview, 10th place in international extemporaneous speaking; Mimi Le of Eastview, 10th place in original oratory, and Layla Foster of Eastview and Prapthi Jayesh Sirrkay of Eagan in congressional debate. Eric Li and  Archan Sen of Eagan finished in the top 24 in policy debate. Quarterfinalists were Sydney Wilson, Liza Rotty and Kyrylo Pernatiy of Apple Valley, and Charlotte Krekeler, Josh Negussie, Nikhil Kapur, Pavan Guttipatti and Elise Noonan of Eastview. Octofinalists (top 60) were Laurel Carter and Frank Knier of Apple Valley, and Bianca Turman, Audrey Schwartz and Arush Iyer of Eagan.

Two District 196 coaches also received high honors during the 2020 national tournament. Apple Valley’s Scott Voss was named National Assistant Coach of the Year and Eagan Head Debate Coach Chris McDonald became the fourth District 196 coach to be inducted into the National Speech and Debate Association Hall of Fame. Eagan Principal Polly Reikowski was inducted in 2017, Eagan Head Speech Coach Joni Anker in 2011 and former Apple Valley Head Speech Coach Pam Wycoff in 2007. McDonald also received the Albert S. Odom Award at this year’s tournament for his leadership of Eagan’s debate team.