Apple Valley High School speech champion Halima Badri and coach Scott Voss

ROSEMOUNT, Minn. – Apple Valley High School junior Halima Badri won a national championship in original oratory, and for the fourth year in a row Apple Valley and Eagan high schools were two of the top 10 Schools of Outstanding Distinction at the National Speech & Debate Association tournament June 17-22 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

The top 10 schools are determined by the number of rounds of competition their students complete in speech and debate events during the national tournament. Each event started with approximately 250 competitors. Of the 10 Apple Valley students who qualified for the national tournament, three were finalists (top six) in their events, three advanced to the semifinal rounds (top 14), one was a quarterfinalist (top 30) and one was an octofinalist (top 60). Of the 14 Eagan students who qualified, three were finalists, four advanced to the semifinal rounds and two were octofinalists.

Badri won the state title in original oratory in April and followed that up with a championship in the same category at the national tournament. Her Apple Valley teammates Zach Mundt and Reese Johnson finished national runners-up in duo interpretation, Zach Frye and Liza Rotty took seventh in duo interpretation, Trinity Ek finished in 11th place in informative speaking, Kenan Anderson was 16th in Lincoln Douglas debate and Abigail Brachio was an octofinalist in extemporaneous speaking.

Finalists from Eagan included Emily Albert Stauning, third place in poetry; Claire Nelson, third place in storytelling, and Tram Nguyen, fourth place in original oratory. Eagan’s semifinalists were Elsie Goren, 14th place in informative speaking, and Grant Davis, Nautica Flowers and Emma Zellmer in congressional debate. Octofinalists from Eagan were Claire Nelson in humorous interpretation and Jason Scheller in U.S. extemporaneous speaking.

Three students from Eastview High School also qualified for the national tournament. Campbell Bernstein advanced to the semifinal round and placed 14th in humorous interpretation and Ross Abram was a quarterfinalist in international extemporaneous speaking.

Three District 196 speech and debate coaches were also recognized during the national tournament. Eagan Head Speech Coach Joni Anker was recognized as the 2018 National High School Coach of the Year, which was announced in the spring. In her 40-plus years of coaching speech, Anker has impacted thousands of students at Eagan and throughout Minnesota. Since founding the speech and debate program when Eagan opened in 1989, she has coached 63 state champions and 13 national champions. Anker was inducted into the Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame in 2006 and the National Speech & Debate Association Hall of Fame in 2011.

Eagan’s Head Debate Coach Chris McDonald received a Gold District Leadership Award and his fourth Diamond Coaching Award, and Zach Prax, an assistant speech and debate coach at Eastview, received the Best District Chair Communications Award.

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