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VEHS student debater competes in national competition (video)

By Carolina Astrain
June 22, 2013 at 1:22 a.m.
Updated June 23, 2013 at 1:23 a.m.

Inscribed on the wall of Summer Gregurek's bedroom  is a quote from Henry David Thoreau, "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined."

Summer Gregurek, 15, knows what it's like to be under pressure.

This past week, she joined about 3,000 high school students at the National Forensic League National Speech and Debate Tournament in Birmingham, Ala., and competed in the International Extemporaneous Speaking category.

Qualifiers vied for more than $200,000 in scholarships at the national competition.

But after six rounds Summer was 20 points over the 35-point limit for advancing qualifiers.

Gregurek learned she was out of the contest Tuesday and moved on to consolation events in extemporaneous debate and impromptu speaking.

"The competition was tough," Summer said. "They cut from about 300 to 350 people to only 60."

At the national competition, she was joined by her debate partner Aubrey Bleier, debate coach Rock Westfahl and his Westfahl's wife.

After three rounds of extemporaneous debate and one round of impromptu, Summer dropped out of the consolation competitions.

She spent the rest of the time at the tournament watching the final debate rounds before returning home Saturday afternoon.

"I've realized that debate styles can be really different depending what state you are from," Summer said. "People from different regions debate in different ways."

The topics she drew and chose in her six rounds included, "How has the rise of an increasingly authoritarian Russia impacted democratization in the former Soviet republics?" and "What can African nations do to lower infant mortality rates?"

The junior said she expects to return to Victoria East High School in the fall with a great sense of accomplishment.

"I want to bring back some advice on speaking in international extemp," Summer said. "Almost everyone on our squad does extemp. ... It's the one thing we all have in common."

Westfahl said Summer is the youngest student to advance to nationals since 2010.

"There may have been somebody else from the Stroman and VHS days," Westfahl said. "She's the only sophomore I've had who's advanced to nationals."

And across the state, Summer was one of the 25 Texas students to be part of the national competition.

"She's done really well," Westfahl said. "She's our only student to go to nationals this year."

Between Dec. 15 and the state finals, Summer hasn't had a ballot lower than a 2 anywhere, said Westfahl.

In debate tournaments, speeches are usually judged on a 1 through 8 scale with 1 being the highest rank, or they may depend on how many competitors are registered per section.

Summer learned she would be advancing to nationals after placing second at a National Forensic League district tournament at Harlingen South High School.

She joined the VEHS debate team after talking to Westfahl at a freshman orientation.

"Being part of debate has made me better at public speaking," Summer said. "It's also helped me think faster on my feet."



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