OTTUMWA— Last Saturday, the Ottumwa High School Debate Team was awarded the District Cumulative Sweepstakes Points Award for 2017. “It’s pretty cool to take a trophy like that back to OHS,” said sophomore Sara Neubert.
The award goes to the team that has shown the greatest consistency over time. “This trophy really belongs to Natalie Dommer, Amy Drake, Brooke Fischels, Bob Beisch, and all the legendary coaches and competitors who have worked to make Ottumwa a consistent debate powerhouse,” said Sam Garchik, who, along with Susan Gates, coaches the current team. Gates and Garchik are both educators at OHS.
“It’s really a cool award in that it speaks to the legacy of debate at OHS,” Gates said. “It helps give our students a sense of the history of the program, and the chance to see that hard work pays off over time.”
The students who went to this tournament were thrilled to be surprised with such an honor. “As a district contender for the past three years, I have come close to qualifying for nationals,” said Riley Albertson, an OHS junior. “To have that work recognized, as well as the work of my fellow team members, made me very elated.”
Unlike most trophies, this one rewards annual participation. Points are won over years and often decades. “This award speaks of the consistent talent that OHS brings to tournaments each year,” former coach Amy Drake said of the trophy. “It also acknowledges the hard work and commitment of students and coaches both current and past, which is unique to academic clubs.”
Every year, schools get points by sending students to the East Iowa District Tournament, which qualifies competitors for the national tournament. Points gained in rounds accumulate for each school from year to year. “This award highlights that cohesive element over the last several decades, as each group of students have passed on the debate legacy to the next,” said Gates. “It’s an award that belongs to every member of this program, past and present.”
“This year, no school has shown greater consistency than we have,” said Garchik. Each year, the team with the greatest number of total district points gets the trophy, which moves from school to school. Next year, Ottumwa’s points will reset to zero, and the team will begin anew, accruing points towards the trophy. “It will take us another few decades to get to the top again,” said Garchik. “But Bertha, as the trophy is colloquially named, will return to Ottumwa High again.”