In the novice division's final round of debate Friday, Danville High School junior Hunter Kendrick and Larry A. Ryle High School junior Joey Shelton went head-to-head on the United Nations.

&#8220These students were exceptional,” said Lynn Grise, debate coach and English teacher at Fern Creek Traditional High School in Louisville. &#8220Debating itself is one of the best activities and considered the best preparation for college than anything else in a classroom.”

Western Kentucky University is in the midst of hosting the Kentucky High School Speech League Tournament, with 506 students from 82 high schools showing off their competitive skills in several areas.

The high school students compete against each other in the areas of storytelling, prose oratory, impromptu speaking, poetry interpretation, duo acting, improvisational duo, dramatic interpretation of literature, solo acting and broadcasting. The debate portion is taking place early, so the students can enter both debate and another event - if they qualify for the other areas, said Judy Woodring, director of forensics and executive director of KHSSL.

&#8220This is such a big tournament that we can't run the events simultaneously,” she said.

The national office changes the debate topic every three months, Woodring said, and this tournament's topic is on the United Nations.

While Friday marked the end of debates, it marked the start of several other events that will continue through today, such as the impromptu speaking, story telling and improvisation. Events will take place across the campus today, with event headquarters in Garrett Conference Center.

Calloway County High School sophomore Will Blackford, 15, said after competing Thursday in Student Congress (a type of debate), he is looking forward to the three other events he will be competing in.

&#8220I'll be doing storytelling, duo improvisation and original oratory,” he said. &#8220It's what I've been working toward all year. I just want to do my best. I'm not nervous, but a little anxious to get started and see how I do.”

The 87-year-old tournament has been taking place at WKU, which is home to the Kentucky High School Speech League. This week is the high school division, while next week will be the junior high division, she said.

&#8220The tournament is well run,” Grise said. &#8220It's one of the best tournaments the state offers.”

Jacob Rouse, a 17-year-old Larry A. Ryle High School junior, also participated Thursday in Student Congress, and will compete in impromptu, broadcasting and extemporaneous speaking.

&#8220I've done football and basketball, and this is one of the best competitions. It is the most important I've done so far,” he said. &#8220I wish more people would be involved. If they wouldn't be so judgmental about what they think takes place and give it a shot, they'll see how much fun it is. And it's showcasing skills I'll use.

&#8220All of the students here, whether they win or lose, will walk away with skills they can use for the rest of their lives.”

Traditionally, speaking and debate have been known to be the best educational tools students can gain skills in, Woodring said, and students who've participated in the tournaments have gone into law, acting or broadcasting.

&#8220And even if they don't go into these fields, they'll have the knowledge in their backgrounds,” she said. &#8220These students participate in this tournament for the same reason someone would play basketball. They're good at it, and it's a competitive activity. So why not?”

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