By Amanda Stickels, executive features editor
Senior Paul Evers gave his argument as to why he should get the Best Presiding Officer (PO) award in his preliminary chamber at the IHSA Debate State Tournament on March 16-18. As a PO, Evers, the captain of the congressional debate team, was the leader in his chamber, so he called on people to speak, timed how long people spoke and made sure everything followed procedure.
After Evers gave his speech, the two other POs got up and spoke about why they should be awarded Best PO, one of three ways to qualify for the semifinals the next day. However, Evers could not believe his ears when one of the other POs urged the chamber to vote for him.
Instead of giving a bunch of reasons as to why he should win the award, the student said that he himself didn’t do a great job and showed the chamber that he was going to vote for Evers.
This is extremely uncommon because even though it may have been true that Evers did a better job, it is still a competition in which each person wants to do well and be able to move on to semifinals.
“That’s what’s going to stand out for me from that tournament— that someone thought I did so well that they were willing to give up their chance for winning and give it to me as well,” Evers said.
Winning Best PO in his chamber, Evers was the only one out of five from Prospect to move on to semifinals in the IHSA Debate State Tournament, a feat he was able to accomplish for the second year in a row. Despite not qualifying for the finals round, Evers was named seventh place in the All-state Debate Team, which is compiled of the top 10 debaters in the state. This is based on the average scores of each debater’s speeches.
For this, Evers became part of only a few Prospect debate team members who also received this great honor. Since the debate team decided to leave before the awards ceremony, Evers did not find out until the Tuesday after the tournament. He immediately told debate team coach David Schnell as he found out through looking at his scores on the IHSA Debate website.
“It blew me away because it wasn’t something that was on my radar. I was so focused on the other component pieces,” Schnell said. “It was one of those things that kind of floors you right away like ‘wow, that’s amazing.’”
Evers expresses that he is extremely honored to be able to receive this kind of recognition at the tournament.
“Putting it in perspective, it’s a very hard feat to make All-State,” Evers said. “It’s all based on points, so that means I had the seventh best scores out of 181 kids. That’s just really hard to fathom that I was able to perform that well.”
Both Evers and Schnell also accredit Evers’s success to the work of fellow teammates who competed at state senior Matt Mosley, junior Grayce Sweetman, senior Cori Wims and sophomore Annie Cimack.
The night before the semifinals, the whole team pulled together and stayed up until 2 or 3 a.m. doing research for the bills that Evers had to present the next day.
“I went in as a representative as Prospect, and I represented our team because I had everyone behind me through their work they did the night before,” Evers said. “I couldn’t have asked for much more; they set me up with the chance to succeed.”
Evers was especially happy with his finish since he is a senior, and this was his final season in Debate. He says that he will miss it immensely.
“[Debate] has been what has defined me for the past three years,” Evers said. “And I’ve added more things since then… but debate became my identity. That became who I was, and that’s what I really invested myself into. The culmination of it all was very emotional.”