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LAHS: 2019 National Qualifiers For Speech & Debate

on April 9, 2019 - 9:18am

Hilltalkers 2019 National Qualifiers, from left, Emily Holmes, Nilesh Mulundan, Gopal Nadiga, Malea Joyce, Neha Sadasivan, Sonyia Williams, Coach Margo Batha, Antonio Dowdy and Sam Menefee. Courtesy/LAPS

LAPS News:

The Los Alamos High School Hilltalkers Speech and Debate team announces its 2019 qualifiers for the National Tournament in June in Dallas, Texas.

The Hilltalkers sent 13 speakers and debaters to compete March 21-23 at the New Mexico National Speech and Debate Association National Qualifying Tournament at Albuquerque Academy. Of those 13, eight Hilltalkers have advanced to the National Tournament:

  • Antonio Dowdy – Lincoln Douglas Debate;
  • Malea Joyce – Informative Speaking;
  • Nilesh Mukundan – United States Extemporaneous Speaking;
  • Neha Sadasivan – Original Oratory;
  • Emily Holmes – New Mexico World Schools Debate team;
  • Gopal Nadiga – New Mexico World Schools Debate team;
  • Sam Menefee – New Mexico World Schools Debate team; and
  • Sonyia Williams – New Mexico World Schools Debate team.

Qualifying to compete at the National Tournament is a grueling process that includes double elimination rounds in speech and debate events. All 13 Hilltalkers who competed were strong performers who made it out of preliminary rounds and, in many cases, were finalists and alternates in their events. Only those achieving first or second place can advance to compete in June at the National Tournament.

Of the eight Hilltalkers who qualified, seven of them are products of the Los Alamos Middle School Speech and Debate program.

“I’m so proud of the hard work and preparation that all of our Hilltalkers put into their events. The National Qualifying tournament is extremely competitive and these students rose to the occasion,” Coach Margo Batha said. “I’m especially proud of Antonio Dowdy and Sam Menefee for being National Qualifiers four years in a row. Qualifying four years in a row is a huge achievement and we’re looking forward to seeing them recognized at the National Tournament for this achievement.”

The National Qualifying Tournament caps a strong season for the Hilltalkers and the Hawktalkers. The Hilltalkers competed in multiple tournaments in New Mexico and traveled to tournaments in Texas and Illinois.

At the New Mexico State Speech tournament in February, students placed in multiple events including:

  • Eleanor Henderson – first place, Humorous Interpretation;
  • Antonio Dowdy – first place, US Extemporaneous Speaking;
  • Leah Wolfsberg – third place, Humorous Interpretation;
  • Malea Joyce – finalist, Original Oratory and Informative Speaking;
  • Gopal Nadiga – finalist, International Extemporaneous Speaking;
  • Lexi Alcala – finalist, International Extemporaneous Speaking;
  • Carlos and Miguel Chacon – third place, Duo Interpretation;
  • Sonyia Williams – finalist, Dramatic Interpretation;
  • Olivia Koo – finalist, Informative Speaking; and
  • Ellery Leirmo – finalist, Original Oratory.

At the State Debate tournament in March, seniors Antonio Dowdy and Sam Menefee tied for first place in Lincoln Douglas Debate. Dowdy also brought home the William and Cat Bennett trophy for Outstanding Speaker in Lincoln Douglas Debate. Dowdy also was a finalist in Congressional Debate. Additionally, Hawktalker Yun Kim was a finalist in State Congressional Debate.

To fundraise for the Hilltalkers’ travel to Dallas and next year’s expenses for the Hilltalkers and the Hawktalkers, the team is planning a High Tea Showcase at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 5 at Fuller Lodge. The Hilltalkers will perform their award-winning speeches and there will be musical entertainment. Tickets for the Showcase are $20 each and include refreshments. To purchase tickets for the showcase, contact Sherri Bublitz at