Nevada Union debate team qualifies for national tournament |

Nevada Union debate team qualifies for national tournament

Hagan Noyes practices his past arguments with his debate partner, Devin Anderson. The pair qualified for the Tournament of Champions in April.
Sam Corey/

Know & Go

What: Nevada Union debate team publicly debates three separate issues as a fundraiser.

Where: Summer Thymes Bakery and Deli at 231 Colfax Avenue, Grass Valley, CA 95945

When: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., April 3

Tickets can be purchased online at this link

Get into an argument with the Nevada Union High School debate team, and you may lose.

That’s because two students on the team qualified for the Tournament of Champions in Kentucky — one of the country’s most prestigious high school debate tournaments. This is the second straight year Nevada Union debate team members are heading to the national tournament for the policy division.

This season’s topic is immigration, meaning students need to develop arguments both in favor and against immigration, or at least against their opponent’s positions.

“It’s shocking how prepared these students are,” said Cricket Noyes, parent to two debate team members and vice president of the Nevada Union High School Debate Boosters. Her son, Hagan Noyes, a junior on the team, is heading to the national tournament with his debate partner, Devin Anderson.

Senior Devin Anderson became interested in debate in middle school. He was intrigued not just by the political topics, but also by the theoretical frameworks for arguing as it provided him the opportunity for introspection.

“We get to self reflect,” he said. “I think a lot of the things we do in our lives is a little bit detached from the meaning behind it, and so I get to talk about philosophy and psychology and the theory of debate itself.”

Over the course of a school year, debate team members compete in 10 national tournaments. In each, students recite four eight-minute speeches and four five-minute speeches. The speeches have few restrictions except for time, said Anderson.

In order to compete at the Kentucky tournament, debaters need two bids from any of the national tournaments. Bids are distributed if students reach the quarter or semi-finals of tournaments.

“Only 75 teams in the entire country get these two bids,” said Anderson, adding that there are probably tens of thousands of teams across the nation.

The championship and debate world is not just a theoretical game for participants like Anderson. The senior wants to learn more about the methods of policy in college, and leverage lessons from debate to later help people as an ambassador for the United Nations.

“(The United Nations) has a massive budget just dedicated to helping displaced persons find resettlement homes,” said Anderson. Their efforts, he says, help countries stabilize.


Despite their success, the local debate team faces an uphill battle as most of its opponents have full-time coaches and a lot of resources, said Cricket Noyes. These are resources the team doesn’t have, said coach Stephen Goldberg, who helps coach the team for free. National tournaments cost money for flights, rental cars, lodging, food and for hiring judges.

“The Nevada Union debate team is a force to be reckoned with even though they don’t have a full-time coach,” said Cricket Noyes.

Michael Anderson, parent to Devin Anderson and president of the Nevada Union High School Debate Boosters, has been helping to keep the team afloat since his son joined four years ago.

“Most of the schools we compete with are private, and they have lots of coaches,” he said. “It’s sort of an elite situation for some of these high schools.”

Michael Anderson’s son has been exclusively teaching the school’s elective debate class. Superintendent of Nevada Joint Union High School District, Brett McFadden, is supportive of expanding the debate team, and hiring an adult teacher for the class, according to Michael Anderson.

“If there was more of a (debate) ecosystem, than we’d be able to bring in more kids into this kind of activity, which is really important in the 21st century,” he said.

In the past two years more students have joined the team, but Michael Anderson is concerned the debate class will be cancelled after his son graduates and there’s no one left to teach the course.

“It would sort of die on the vine,” he said. “(Students) would come to this debate team meeting on Wednesday night and you would be overwhelmed, and then you would go to tournaments and you wouldn’t do very well.”

The Nevada Union debate team will be hosting a Miner Disputes fundraiser on April 3 so it can attend the Tournament of Champions in Kentucky.

Contact Sam Corey at (530) 477-4219 or at

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