Middle School Debaters Shine at Citywide Debate Championship

Middle School Debaters Cheering

At MNUDL, we serve over 600 students in our middle school debate program! We see middle school as such a valuable time for students to build both academic and social and emotional learning skills, and debate as an ideal activity to help students grow. One month after a snowstorm delayed our Middle School Debate Championship, we were able to welcome students from more than a dozen middle school debate teams to compete for the Citywide Champions title. Find our coach recognitions and the final tournament results below.


Each year, we recognize the coaches who have gone above and beyond to make an outstanding impact on our students, schools, and communities. Find the 2024 winners here!

Community Coaches of the Year: Audrey Snowbeck and Lily St Dennis, Highland Park

HIghland Park Middle School debaters cheer at the awards announcement. | Photo Credit: Marina Que

Highland Park Middle School debaters cheer at the awards announcement. | Photo Credit: Marina Que

Middle school debate is a place where students in 6th-8th grade can build relationships not only with one another, but also with high school students from their neighborhood. Current high school debaters serve as community coaches for our middle school teams. Nowhere is the connection between middle and high school programs stronger than at Highland Park! Congratulations to Audrey Snowbeck and Lily St Dennis for winning the 2024 Community Coaches of the Year award!

Jake Swede, our Program Director, explains,

“Debate can be a gateway to meeting someone new- maybe even your best friend for the rest of your life. These two coaches have known each other a long time. They joined both debate in sixth grade, and seven years later, they’ve been partners the entire time. They’ve represented us at the National tournament and are well beloved in our community. They’re so close to each other that one of them got sick, and then got the other sick a few days ago… so they’re not present today, but congratulations!” 

Teacher Coach of the Year Award Winners: Kate Olson & Ben Babcock (Sojourner Truth Academy)

Ben Babcock and Kate Olson high five

Another dynamic duo earned Coach of the Year recognition! | Photo Credit: Marina Que

Congratulations to Kate Olson and Ben Babcock, the coaching team from Sojourner Truth Academy, for earning a dual Teacher Coach of the Year award!

Jake Swede, our program director, elaborates,

“Teacher Coaches are the ones who are always there for you. They’re never late for practice, they take you tournaments, and they’re the emotional rock of the team. Without excellent coaches, you can’t be excellent debaters. Once again, we are honoring two coaches at once. They work at the same school. They started their team by coming to us a couple of years ago. They built a solid program, with enthusiastic students that come to every tournament. Sojourner Truth Academy’s students always learn a lot, do their best, and have a positive growth mindset- they get better, win, lose, or draw. Kate and Ben teach their students to use feedback to improve every single practice and tournament.”

Coach Recognition Award: Rhonda Lund

Rhonda Lund poses with award

Sanford Middle School coach Rhonda Lund has served our debate community for over a decade. | Photo Credit: Marina Que

There were so many incredible coaches to recognize, we couldn’t stop at just 4. For the first time ever, our staff members decided to provide an additional, special coach recognition award. This award was created to recognize the accomplishments over a teacher’s entire tenure as a coach. They chose Rhonda Lund, who began coaching with the MNUDL in 2007 and serves as Sanford Middle School’s coach, as the award recipient!

At the award ceremony, Jake asked every student who was a Sanford graduate, coached by a Sanford graduate, or coached by a student who was coached by a Sanford graduate to stand up… and a sea of debaters rose up! It’s a testament to how many students have had the chance to build skills and confidence through Rhonda’s influence.

Tournament Results

Debaters pose with their trophies

Our top speakers and teams (partnerships) showed off their hardware with pride! | Photo Credit: Marina Que

Please congratulate the following award winners in each division:


Team Awards:

• Champions: Adam & Lindsley (Murray MS)
• 2nd: Lidnsey & Jones (Sojourner Truth Academy)
• 3rd: Williams & Sims (St. Louis Park)
• 4th: Garcia & LoPesio (St. Louis Park)
• 5th: Brookes & Czarniecki (Capitol Hill)
• 6th: Ahmed & Stocksmith (Justice Page)
• 7th: Curtis-Young & Myles (Hidden River)

Speaker Awards:

• Top Speaker: Teressa Garcia (St. Louis Park)
• 2nd: Mariya Adam (Murray MS)
• 3rd: Mary Grace Lindsley (Murray MS)
• 4th: Sienna LoPesio (St. Louis Park)
• 5th: Emmeline Brookes (Capitol Hill)
• 6th: Nora Czarniecki (Capitol Hill)
• 7th: Alonna Lindsey (Sojourner Truth Academy)
• 8th: Isabella Minus (Highland Park)
• 9th: Jamila Ahmed (Justice Page)
• 10th: Dez’Aray Jones (Sojourner Truth Academy)
• 11th: Loretta Stocksmith (Justice Page)
• 12th: Penelope Turner (Highland Park)
• 13th: Thomas Goddell (Franklin)
• 14th: Cassidy Xiong (John Glenn)
• 15th: Peyton Morrison (John Glenn)


Team Awards:

• Champions: Wang & Levi (Yinghua Academy)
• 2nd: Coleman & Woerner (Highland Park)
• 3rd: Collins & McLelland (Sanford MS)
• 4th: Ambo & Hilowle (Skyview)
• 5th: Fisher & Duarte (John Glenn)
• 6th: Day & Bohnhoff (Sanford MS)
• 7th: Vue & Feeney (John Glenn)
• 8th: Schmidt & Schmitz (Skyview)
• 9th: Ahmed & Hirsi (Justice Page)
• 10th: Li & Yang (Centennial MS)

Speaker Awards:

• Top Speaker: Najma Ahmed (Justice Page)
• 2nd: Lexi Wang (Yinghua)
• 3rd: Fatima Hilowle (Skyview)
• 4th: John Levi (Yinghua)
• 5th: Sumaya Hirsi (Justice Page)
• 6th: Evalyn Li (Centennial)
• 7th: Tiya Ambo (Skyview)
• 8th: Eva Yang (Centennial)
• 9th: Heiko Bohnhoff (Sanford)
• 10th: A’laijah Campbell (Sojourner Truth)
• 11th: Julia Gottschalk (Anthony MS)
• 12th: Mya Fisher (John Glenn)
• 13th: Jayshawn Singleton (Sojourner Truth)
• 14th: Violet Woerner (Highland Park)
• 15th: Mumina Abdi (Centennial)


Team Awards:

• Champions: Lofrgren & Northrop (Justice Page)
• 2nd: Kopidakis & Hadi-Iyer (Capitol Hill)
• 3rd: Anderson & Bode (Yinghua)
• 4th: Sahli & Wood (Capitol Hill)
• 5th: Frey & Schlittenhart (Capitol Hill)
• 6th: Laska & Boyd (Murray MS)
• 7th: Graner (Anthony MS)
• 8th: Totzke & Rismoen (Yinghua)
• 9th: Sisk & McCargar (Centernnial)
• 10th: Williams & Ubani (Skyview)

Speaker Awards:

• Top Speaker: Ava Northrop (Justice Page)
• 2nd: Gabe Anderson (Yinghua)
• 3rd: Orlagh Frey (Capitol Hill)
• 4th: Grant Bode (Yinghua)
• 5th: Daniella Ubani (Skyview)
• 6th: Isabella Williams (Skyview)
• 7th: Mio Onizuka (Capitol Hill)
• 8th: Pernilla Lofgren (Justice Page)
• 9th: Marji Hadi-Iyer (Capitol Hill)
• 10th: Zadi Hadi-Iyer (Capitol Hill)
• 11th: Leighanna Jackson (Capitol Hill)
• 12th: Arya Carlson (Capitol Hill)
• 13th: Bailey Haack (Sanford)
• 14th: Margo Paul (Sanford)
• 15th: Ella Kopidakis (Capitol Hill)


Team Awards:

Madeline Piersma & Eleanor Tietjen from Yinghua Academy bested Anna Wang from Capitol Hill, who debated as a maverick, in the Varsity finals!

Speaker Awards:

• Top Speaker: Anna Wang (Capitol Hill)
• 2nd: Pearl Griffith (Capitol Hill)
• 3rd: Imogin Forys (Capitol Hill)
• 4th: Alice Van Keerbergen (Murray MS)
• 5th: Eleanor Tietjen (Yinghua)
• 6th: Harper Zimney (Highland Park)
• 7th: Madeline Piersma (Yinghua)
• 8th: Nora Choo (Capitol Hill)
• 9th: Grace Thomas (Capitol Hill)
• 10th: Yasmeen Benlhabib (Capitol Hill)

Help even more Minnesota middle schoolers connect with caring coaches and achieve excellence as debaters. Make a one-time or monthly gift to our program!