Iowa Forensic League State Tournament

2022 — NSDA Campus, IA/US


Once you have read all of the nominations, click HERE to vote!



Grant Carkner - Bettendorf High School


Grant Carkner has been competing on the Bettendorf Speech and Debate Team since his Sophomore year and has been one of the most versatile members I have had the pleasure to work with.  Grant has competed in a wide variety of events, including: Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Congressional Debate, Informative Speaking, Public Forum Debate, Original Oratory, Impromptu Speaking, and Extemporaneous Speaking.   Grant has been the person who was willing to help out and step in whenever needed, willing to try new things and explore his options while in the program.  He has always been there to talk with students and encourage them to develop their thoughts/ideas, as they explore the Speech and Debate world.  Grant qualified to attend the NSDA Nationals tournament in 2021 in Domestic Extemporaneous Speaking and has won 3 trophies in Informative Speaking.  Outside of the Speech and Debate Team, Grant has focused on tennis - finishing in 2nd place in 3rd division of JV doubles his Freshmen year and finishing in 3rd place singles for the number 3 position on his team his Junior year.  Grant also was the winner of the Davenport Jr. Theatre playwriting competition in 2020.  Grant intends to attend Augustana College next year, hoping to use his creativity and high energy to stand out from the crowd.  I have no doubt he will be successful in his pursuits and wish him the best as he moves on to the next level of his academic career.  Grant has been a faithful member of the team during some tough rebuilding years and he will be missed.  It is for these reasons and more that I believe Grant would serve as an excellent candidate for the IFL Senior of the Year Award.  Thank you for your consideration.  



Talia Cary - Bettendorf High School


Talia Cary has been competing on the Bettendorf Speech and Debate Team since her Sophomore year and has been an integral part of a program that has been through many trials and tribulations during that time frame.  Some of Talia's top accomplishments in her 3 years on the team include being a 3-time National qualifier in International Extemporaneous Speaking and winning multiple awards in Public Forum Debate, including finishing in 2nd Place at last year's IFL State tournament. Talia’s first year was marred with budget woes, interpersonal conflict implosions, team disciplinary issues, and more.  She had a Public Forum Debate partner quit the team and still focused on her journey for personal improvement and bonded with a core group of students who remained faithful through all the ups and downs of that rough year.  I would like to think Talia came to think of the team as family, which is a true honor considering her background as an adopted Hispanic child who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  Talia struggles with the overwhelming pressure to feel like she is good at something from all angles and yet she has focused on giving back to this community that she has found a home in through attending the University of Northern Iowa as a Communications major.  Talia plans to enter the teaching profession (despite my many attempts at dissuading her) and teach communication courses, with the goal of continuing to support speech and debate activities in the future.  From what I know of Talia, she will make an excellent advocate for this activity and I look forward to seeing her as a head coach someday.  Talia has been a steadfast member of the team since day one, doing all she could to keep the team together through some rough times.   It feels like a lifetime ago when we left the IFL State tournament in 2020, where Talia took 4th Place in International Extemporaneous Speaking, only to go into a global pandemic for the next two years.  Life has been stressful for all of us, but Talia helped out her teammates to the best of her ability during trying times and I am grateful to have her as a student.  Her leadership and service have been commendable and I believe Talia would serve as an excellent candidate for the IFL Senior of the Year Award.  Thank you for your consideration.



Megan Dunn - Davenport West


Megan Dunn has been a member of the Davenport West team since her freshman year, and although she mostly stuck with her favorite event of Informative Speaking all throughout her speech and debate experience, Megan has been an instrumental part of the West team. Even though much of her experience was not a "normal" speech and debate experience due to the pandemic, which resulted in online only tournaments for over two years, including two National Tournaments where she competed on the East Iowa World Schools team and in Expository as a supplemental event, as well as a shrinking team because online only tournaments have made it difficult to recruit, Megan has never hesitated to step up when she was asked to help. She has competed in additional events at Districts to help the district to ensure we can qualify as many as possible in events, and this year, Megan went to all of the freshmen English classes to talk about the benefits of speech and debate, which helped recruit some new freshmen to our team. She is also always willing to help lead new students as needed. This year, Megan qualified to Nationals in Informative Speaking.


Further, Megan is active in other school activities and volunteering. She is currently the print editor for the school newspaper and the National Honor Society President, and she has volunteered for numerous political campaigns and even trained others to phone bank. Throughout all of this, she has also been able to maintain a 4.0 GPA. With her experiences in Speech and Debate, the school newspaper, and as a political activist, Megan understands the value of research and using her voice to speak up for what is right. I know this all will carry her far in the future to use her voice to stand up for others and herself to better our society. Megan is a deserving candidate for Senior of the Year.



Zachary Harnden - Dowling Catholic


It is my distinct pleasure to nominate Zachary Harnden to be the 2022 Iowa High School Forensic League Senior of the Year. Zach is the highest NSDA point earner in the state of Iowa....this by itself would be an impressive feat, but he has achieved this distinction while consistently not debating the first 2 months of the season BECAUSE HE IS A VARSITY FOOTBALL PLAYER. AT DOWLING CATHOLIC. (Imagine where he would be if he debated in October)


The numbers indicate that Public Forum is the most contested category in our state, Zach and his partner have won the IHSSA State title in Public Forum in back to back years; have qualified to NSDA Nationals in back to  back years and are the reigning IHSFL champions in Public Forum.


Zach has also competed multiple times in Spontaneous (was a state finalist last year in the category), Extemp and Congressional Debate. As all these Seniors have he has navigated the world of online debate with humility and grace. Zach would wildly prefer to be debating in-person, he is a people person; but he has risen to the challenge of, at times over the past 2 seasons, not even being in the same room as his debate partner.


Zach has served in Dowling Student Government as his class President is one of the most likeable people you will meet.  


Zach loves this game. I am proud to put his name forward to be recognized as the 2022 Student of the Year.



Paige Jensen - CAM High School


It is my pleasure to nominate Paige Jensen from CAM High School for IFL Senior of the Year. The IFL committee’s criteria for consideration were listed as:


Senior’s accomplishments, community service, and other positive characteristics that merit recognition.


Paige has many noteworthy accomplishments, an outstanding record of community service and the type of positive characteristics one would want in a future leader.

Paige has been a four year member of 4-H, FFA, Cheerleading, Digital Media, Band, Pep Band and Speech and Debate.. Holding numerous leadership roles along the way

4-H:  Club Historian, Secretary, and President.Â

County Youth Council and Youth Action Committee for the past three year

Serve as the Pork Queen 2020,  Beef Queen 2021 for Cass County.

Dozens of community service projects

FFA:Served as FFA Chapter Reporter, Secretary, and Vice President 

2020-2021 FFA Southwest District Reporter

She is currently running for State officer

2021 Meals for the Heartland, packaged 30,000 meals for needy families

Digital Media: Lead the “Why our Town” initiative to help local businesses and Chamber of Commerces to develop their promotional videos and websites

KJAN Radio: Past two years did play by play for CAM sporting events

National Honor Society: Three year member

National Speech and Debate Association

Paige has been a four year member of the NSDA

As a freshman helped to start the debate program at CAM High School

CAM Spark Plug Award for the most outstanding freshman speech student

Two year officer for CAM Speech and Debate

Four years participated in IHSSA large Group & Individual Speech

1298 Speaker points

Four years Public Forum Debate and Individual speech events

Senior Year,  alternate for NSDA Nationals in Program Oral Interp

Twice won the NSDA Speaking and Service Award, one of only two students in the state of Iowa to do so.

NSDA Academic All American as a Junior with a 3.9 GPA

One of three NSDA students selected to speak at the Lions International Leadership Forum. She addressed the 1,500 members on how speech helps to develop future leaders.

I can not think of a more deserving candidate for IFL Senior of the Year. CAM Speech and Debate would not be where it is today without her commitment and dedication to our program. She helped revive CAM HS’s debate program; there had not been a debate program since 1996.  She was the first Triple Ruby winner (750 speaker points) since 1996, first ever Quadruple Ruby winner, first Academic All American, first ever NSDA Service and Speaker winner. But what stands out the most about Paige is her service to others, commitment to her community, leadership skills and great character. Thank you for considering this outstanding individual.


Kirk Kelloway

CAM High School

Speech & Debate Coach



Sophie Johnson - Theodore Roosevelt High School 


Sophie has demonstrated remarkable speech and debate leadership in their final year of high school. Of the seniors on our team, Sophie has attended the most in-person tournaments, virtual tournaments, in-person practices, virtual practices, and clocked the most out-of-practice-hours hours. Sophie has been a jack of all trades in their four years of speech and debate; novice teammates have benefitted from Sophie's expertise in individual events and public forum debate. Sophie has worked hard and shown true Roosevelt Speech & Debate spirit. The public forum debaters are in a better place because Sophie Johnson was on the team and lived the team values. 



Roaa Kordeir - Theodore Roosevelt High School


Roaa Kordeir is a student who has worked hard in not only speech and debate, but in spoken word poetry, social justice movements, and issues surrounding equity in the Des Moines Public Schools and our community. Roaa contributed to keeping the Congressional Debate event at Roosevelt alive. While she has worn many hats in the building, she has stayed a friendly, kind, helpful leader to all the novices and fellow varsity students on the team. We are sad to see some great seniors go, but we're thankful they left so much of their legacy behind for the next generation.




Alyssa Makena - Valley High School


I am pleased to nominate Alyssa Makena for “Senior of the Year” 2022. 


Alyssa’s credentials as a forensics competitor are outstanding. She is fully qualified to the debate Tournament of Champions. She is a past state champion in LD debate, and she qualified as a sophomore to NSDA Nationals in policy debate (where she and her partner made it to elimination rounds). 


Additionally, Alyssa is an amazing leader in and out of forensics. In addition to working with novice and JV debaters on the Valley squad, she serves as a leader and mentor for the Debate (“Women in Debate”) program, which coordinates no-cost debate mentorship for women and gender minorities in high school forensics. 


Beyond that, Alyssa is committed to improving the world. She founded The Teti Project to provide feminine hygiene products and reproductive education to girls in Kenya. In summer of 2021, Alyssa traveled to Kenya to deliver needed materials and to provide training. Access to menstrual products and education is vitally important for girls, both for health and because it prevents them from missing school days while on their menstrual cycles. As Alyssa explained to WCCI: "It's deeply rooted in the fact that as a Kenyan woman and as a Kenyan girl, going into this world, I think it's really important to provide those types of resources and to make sure that young girls have a future that isn't restrained by something they can't control.”



Christopher Pierson - Dowling Catholic


Christopher Pierson is an exceptional member of the Iowa Speech and Debate community. He has debated with maturity and grit for four years.


Public Forum is the most active category in Iowa speech and debate, Christopher and his partner have won the IHSSA State title in Public Forum in back to back years; have qualified to NSDA Nationals in back to back years and are the reigning IHSFL champions in Public Forum.


Christopher was named one of the co-recipients of Dowling's Fr. John Acrea Debate Award by the school. Fr. Acrea was the founder of the debate team at  Dowling Catholic and a champion coach in the Iowa High School Forensic League in the 1960s and 70s.


Christopher has also competed successfully in both Extemp and Spontaneous Speaking.


Christopher is a Varsity Cross-Country runner and also a member of Dowling's Varsity Track team. He is a most kind, gentle and decent soul and it is with pride that I nominate Christopher Pierson to be the 2022 Iowa High School Senior of the Year.


Olivia Yee - Cedar Rapids Kennedy HS


Olivia is an outstanding team member, hard-working competitor, and a genuinely good person. Throughout her forensic career, Olivia has always been self-motivated and curious, exploring many possible ideas for her info speeches and re-working her demonstratives to find new and innovative ways to illustrate her content. She does many speech re-writes, especially after tournaments when she gets feedback which helps to improve her content and delivery, demonstrating her commitment to growth and personal betterment. Additionally, Olivia is one heck of a teammate. She actively leads recruiting efforts for speech and goes out of her way to mentor students who show interest in the events. She's definitely the glue which holds together our Info squad, encouraging teammates to get drafts done, helping with demos, organizing get-togethers to help with team bonding, etc. She is a dependable, bubbly friend as well. Her demeanor is playful and happy and she doesn't take herself too seriously. She's not afraid to express her true personality and encourages others to do the same. She puts people at ease when they are around her because of her welcoming demeanor. Olivia is a fierce but fair competitor and uses tournaments not as ends in themselves, but learning opportunities for growth. She makes an effort to get to know students from other schools and is supportive and encouraging of their performances and successes. Olivia is an all-around great human and I'm proud to have been her coach. Plus, she's got a great laugh!