Once again, the Unionville High School Debate Team is having an award-winning year.So far, the students have competed and returned with trophies and honors in a variety of prestigious debate events.

They've been to tournaments at LaSalle, Princeton, Yale and Harvard just this past weekend, where one student placed in the top 24 in semi-finals for Congress.

The team is ranked sixth out of 36 other schools in its district by the National Forensics League and in a few weeks will send some of its members to the NFL state finals.

Coach Sue Hayes, who helped to create the team at UHS, said that the students have done exceptionally well this season-particularly some of the sophomores who she did not anticipate would do so well their first year out.

"We didn't expect them to place, but it gives them an idea of what to expect," Hayes said.

Tournaments start in September and run throughout the scholastic year, culminating in a national competition in June, where the top 5, 000 kids in the NFL battle it out for top honors.

Hayes explained that there are three significant events on the horizon that are instrumental to making it to the nationals, one tournament each for the next three weekends that culminates in state finals.

State competition qualifiers are this weekend, where debaters will work to secure two slots in the state finals

States follow in late March, which marks the end of the road for that journey. Then, it's off to debate in the Catholic Forensics League to place for their national competition in Appleton, Wis., held in May.

"And that's a big deal," Hayes said

The top six there will go to Wisconsin, and Hayes said the team has a good chance of sending a few students there.

The NFL finals occur in March, where the winners-meaning the top two kids in a much bigger region that includes Eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware-will get to go to finals in Las Vegas.

Hayes said that in a recent article in the New York Times, it was reported that students with a background in forensics are 60 percent more likely to get into the college of their choice, compared to an average of 4 to 5 percent for athletics and other scholastic activities.

"The reason is, it's so specifically focused on skills that colleges want," Hayes said. "The colleges want to know that students have a grasp on the greater world, outside of the microcosm of [their home communities], that they know how to communicate and how to think for yourself."

Hayes said that the team members are prepared for the coming weeks and that she is hopeful to send between eight to 10 kids to finals, an average they have maintained from previous years.

"We've had a large number of kids who've done extremely well," she said. "It's a very exciting time, but they're focused and ready."

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