By Susan Tebben
In Canfield this weekend, 900 teenagers will be coming to debate their way to the top of the ranks.
But this time, the arguments will be made at the Ohio High School Speech League State Tournament, co-hosted by Canfield and Boardman high schools.
“With judges and adults and the competitors, there will be about 1,225 people here,” said Jeremy Hamilton, director of the Canfield speech and debate team.
A total of 81 schools will be represented Friday and Saturday as speech and debate teams give prepared and impromptu speeches on various topics, all to compete in one of 13 state championship categories at the competition.
With six districts around the state, the venue rotates every year, and this year it fell on Canfield and Boardman to plan the event. The students have been preparing since October, and the host schools have been planning since last February.
The state competition is the culminating event in the speech and debate team season.
The events range from traditional, prepared speeches to acting exercises and improvised speeches about a topic drawn at random. The speech events are fierce competition but also provide benefits outside of high school speech teams.
“Colleges view it as a valuable academic skill, and there are scholarships that can come out of it,” Hamilton said. “It also improves interviewing skills, but there is also a sense of camaraderie, and many of the kids meet other competitors and they become friends outside of the competition.”
Opening ceremonies for the state competition will be Friday at Boardman High School, at 1:30 p.m. Competition begins at both Canfield and Boardman at 4 p.m. Friday.
The competition continues at 8 a.m. Saturday in both schools and an awards ceremony will be at Canfield after competition ends at 7:30 p.m.