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Debaters argues their way into the top ten in the country


TOWNSEND — Two North Middlesex Regional High School Debate Team argued its way into the top ten list of teams in the country at the Tournament of Champions.

Seniors Melissa Baldwin and Kyle Sleczkowski, both debaters for the past four years and both Pepperell residents, finished ninth in the nation. They both feel they did extremely well under the circumstances.

“All of the other teams have experienced coaches. Our coaches are our mothers, and we did great with them on board,” said Baldwin.

The two applied to go to last week’s tournament in Lexington, Ky., because their record during the year was good, she said. The team competed in eight different debates before going to Kentucky, and many of their finishes were in the top five.

The debates during the school year prepared them for the finals, said Sleczkowski. Along with the other debate team members — junior Marie Dunham and senior Ryan Hammond — they debated some of the best teams in New England.

“The team that won it all at the finals, Manchester Essex Regional, we debated them during the year. We beat their teams, and that was something to do,” he said. “They are awesome, and we were happy to see them win it all in Kentucky.”

For the final debate, the teams were given a topic they had to research the pros and cons of. They prepared arguments on both sides, then, with a flip of the coin, they find out which side they will argue. The topic for the debate was “Does the American media work against the interest of the American people?”

This is the first year the debate team was recognized by Superintendent of Schools James McCormick, said mother and coach Bernadette Baldwin.

“We took that as a huge compliment that the team got recognition from him,” she said. “He is very proud of the accomplishments these students achieved. It is even nicer as this is his last year with us, so we’re (ending) on a high note.”

Mother and coach Janet Sleczkowski said she and Bernadette got involved with the debaters so the team would not fall apart.

“They needed some coaching, so we got together and decided we would do the best we could for them,” she said. “It has been a fantastic year, and we are very pleased with what they’ve been able to do.”

Dunham said she is looking forward to another year on the debate team.

“This was the best season ever, and I had a great partnership with Ryan, so we both learned a lot. This was my second year on the team, and (I have) one more to go.”

Hammond agreed, saying this year was the overall best.

“I’ve been debating for my four years here, and this was the most meaningful year,” he said. “We were the strongest we’d ever been.”

Baldwin said her plans for the future include pursuing a career in corporate law. She will be attending the American University in Washington, D.C., and will be a part of the communications, law, economics and government (CLEG) program.

“I thought being on the debate team would give me some experience in arguing,” she said.

Sleczkowski will be attending Quinnipac University in Connecticut, majoring in business and has a strong interest in politics.

Hammond will be going on to Marymount College in Virginia, majoring in history and education.