Alaska student debaters among the best in the post season


May 28, 2015



Contact: Shawn Briscoe

Alaska coordinator



UPDATE 6/22/2015

South Wolverines DDF Squad Excels at National Championship


The National Speech & Debate Association (formerly the National Forensic League) is the nation’s largest national honor society recognizing excellence and dedication in speech and debate activities. Approximately 115,000 students participate as active members in the honor society each year. To recognize the best of the best, the NSDA hosts the national championship tournament each June. This event brings together roughly 5,000 students, or the top 4% of competitors, from across the country for a week-long competition featuring some of the most impressive young people this nation has to offer.


This summer, South Anchorage High School put on an incredible display of talent. Terek Rutherford (class of 2015) “walked the stage” twice at this year’s national championship. On Thursday evening, he was recognized in the Donus E. Roberts Diamond Coaches Assembly where a number of special awards are presented. Terek was 1 of 51 students recognized for qualifying to the national championship during all four of his years in high school. During the tournament itself, he competed with his partner Skyler Hektner (class of 2015) in policy debate. Although an incredibly tough draw in the preliminary round phase of competition dashed their hopes of advancing to the elimination rounds, Terek did receive individual recognition. Out of 396 students competing in policy debate, Terek earned 12th place speaker honors.


Several other students from South received honorable mention, as well. In the Senate division of Congressional Debate, Kari Jahnsen (class of 2015) was the highest placing competitor not-to advance, missing the cut to elimination rounds on tie breakers. Similarly, the World Schools Debate team of Zooey Meznarich (class of 2018), Philip Andress (class of 2018), & David Courtright (class of 2016) earned a 4-2 record in preliminary rounds, also missing the cut to elimination rounds on tie breakers.


After competing in his main event of Humorous Interpretation of Literature, Garrett Rutherford (class of 2016) joined 555 other competitors in Prose reading. There he survived through six rounds of competition, placing him among the top 55 in that event.


The success of the South DDF squad at the NSDA National Championship Tournament is a result of hard work, excellence, and dedication of all the members of their squad. It is also a testament to the exceptional quality and sense of community on the Alaska DDF circuit.




The following news release is shared on behalf of supporters of Alaska students participating in drama, debate and forensics. Congratulations to the ASD students who participated and good luck in the next tournament.


Thirteen Alaska students represented the state at the National Catholic Forensic League Tournament, an event endorsed by the National Federation of High Schools, held last weekend in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The event is one of the three most prestigious post-season tournaments in the nation for schools participating in drama, debate and forensics (DDF).


This year, nearly 3,000 students from across the country earned a right participate in this truly national event.


The Alaska team included the following students. 

  • Quinlyn Manfull, West High School - Dramatic Performance of Literature
  • Garrett Rutherford, South High School - Dramatic Performance of Literature
  • Wyatt Skala and Boris Mesits, South High School - Duo Interpretation of Literature
  • Robert Hockema, Homer High School - Extemporaneous Speaking
  • Margaret Clark, West High School - Lincoln Douglas Debate
  • Shruti Vadapalli, South High School - Lincoln Douglas Debate
  • Krista Stapleford and Philip Andress, South High School - Public Forum
  • Terek Rutherford and Skyler Hektner, South High School - Policy Debate
  • Jack Sexauer and Kari Jahnsen, South High School - Policy Debate


Despite previous success at two other post-season tournaments, no Alaskan had ever advanced to elimination rounds of the CFL national tournament. In each of the last five years, Alaska students achieved the rankings needed to advance but narrowly missed the cut on tie breakers. This year, the team of Sexauer & Jahnsen also fell into the category of missing the cut on tie breakers.

However, the policy debate team of Rutherford & Hektner bucked the trend and advanced to the second phase at the NCFL Grand National Tournament. At the conclusion of five preliminary rounds, they joined 31 other policy debate teams in the single elimination phase of the tournament. After one of the most thrilling debates at the competition, they defeated one of the top teams in the tournament to advance to the octafinal round (the sweet 16). The Alaska team narrowly won that debate.


In an incredibly close fight, their run ended in the quarterfinal round (the elite eight) against a team from Pennsylvania.


In three weeks, Rutherford and Hektner will have another chance to represent the state in policy debate at the National Speech & Debate Association’s National Forensic League National Championship Tournament in Dallas, TX. Other Alaskan qualifiers include Anthony Chavez of Whitestone School, Garrett Rutherford of South High School, John Wenger of Whitestone School, Lilian Chavez and Ariana DiGloria of Whitestone School, Ruth Miller and Cara Pierson of West High School, Shruti Vadapalli of South High School, Kari Jahnsen of South High School, Wyatt Skala of South High School, and Zooey Meznarich, David Courtright and Andress of South High School.



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