Today was a good day. Now, this could change drastically because I am currently in a mini-bus on an interstate that is covered with patches of snow and ice which have significantly slowed our journey and have resulted in some relatively difficult slipping and sliding here and there, but at the moment the situation seems mostly fine. Updates may follow.

I got up today at about 6:00 CST, which is the equivalent of 5:00 MST, which was painful, but managed to wake myself up slowly over time in a relatively productive way. I forwent (apparently that’s a real word) any form of caffeine this morning, in order to avoid extreme anxiety in the finals extemp round (as the AP Psych FRQ would have us know, on difficult tasks, a lower level of arousal is best for performance). My first round was against the A team of Watertown (who eventually went on to win the tournament), which was interesting because they broke a new affirmative on us, and we closed on topicality yet again. (It was fun to hear two white people talk about structural violence against immigrants…) This was actually especially interesting because the topicality argument I had wasn’t actually that illegitimate, and one judge bought it. The other two did not, however, so we did not advance to the semifinals, and that was the end of my confinement to the shackles of policy debate.

I kind of just rested for the free time I now had before extemp finals, where I had a relatively fun topic, about the long-term impact of France’s yellow-jacket movement. I gave a speech I thought went relatively well actually, which I attributed at least partially to the lack of caffeine, and from there I was done with extemp in South Dakota as well. A beautiful moment, to be sure, but also one touched with a little bit of sadness.

Honestly, I didn’t really feel the burden shift off of me with the end of that speech, which was surprising to me, but I coped with it anyways. I don’t remember doing much after that—something about coordinating judge strikes for one of my friends from West River, and sitting in the room with Washington debaters watching first week FRC matches. I probably should’ve been working on homework, but at this point, oh well. We’ll survive.

The socializing continued essentially until awards. There were a few interesting discussions of policy and whatnot which I really enjoyed. For example, one of my friends called the 2A (the role I play at the current moment) “the gay one”, which was funny because I switched to 2A after my sophomore year, which was also when I had my realization of my queerness. Correlation, or causation? The world may never know.

Awards was interesting. They were missing a variety of plaques, but in any case, I knew I wasn’t getting any of them anyways. I went on stage for extemp first, and they gradually removed competitors. Kharel went, then Gebel, then Thiel…then, me. I got third in AA-International Extemp, which is the best I’ve ever done at any tournament, full stop. God bless. Then, policy debate, where I got a medal and also had to take an orange out of the suit jacket pocket of my partner, which was interesting.

After this, we went and headed to Panera for dinner, where I had a large mac and cheese and read ballots. From there, the bus began its long journey home.

This tournament changed a little bit (or perhaps just extended a little bit) my feelings about my legacy in the debate sphere. For some reason that is utterly unfathomable for me, I seem to have a relatively positive reputation throughout the debate community, and that makes me endlessly happy because it means I’ve succeeded in doing my best to avoid being toxic as so many in the community are, whether intentionally or not. This tournament just had, for me at least, a lot of feel good moments. Someone told me that keeping the legacy for debaters like me was the reason policy should persist in South Dakota,1 something that is beyond an honor given my entire debate career narrative.2 A judge who had been around a few years back and was just coming back told me it was amazing to see how far I’ve come. Another judge—also the founder of public forum (which is now killing policy, oops)—wrote great CX for me specifically in a policy round. Aberdeen still has its blocks prepped out for me and my Malthus DA3 from freshman year. Something about it all was really powerful, and honestly although I’m (more than) mildly satisfied it’s over, I’m glad I was part of this event for so long, even it did mean going through four and a half years of pain just to peak in the last month of the debate season my senior year. With that, I’m out. (Okay, there’s a student congress tournament on Tuesday that’s going to be rough, but otherwise…)

Tomorrow, sleeping in and then taking a lot of notes. Fun times ahead.

  1. Note (2021): RIP policy debate. You are only missed in the hearts of former South Dakotan policy debaters. 

  2. Note (2021): I had joined debate as an eighth-grader and was asked to join the policy debate team, consisting of one other person. We fought tooth and nail every year to make sure the team survived. 

  3. Note (2021): a dumb argument my partner and I ran to great success, arguing that overpopulation meant that saving lives was bad. Nobody was prepared for it, so we won rounds until people finally started writing counterarguments.