Local debate students advance to state

HARLINGEN — The competition was so intense, the combatants decided to pit their wits again at the state level in March.

“I am very proud of them,” said Julia Wise, speech, drama and debate coach at Harlingen High School South.

Her two debate students, Christian Villarreal and Ramiro Gonzalez, took the top spot last month at the 32-6A UIL CX debate district meet.

So impressive was their performance in cross-examination they advanced to the UIL CX debate state meet in Austin March 15-17.

“These two students are very special because at the very beginning of the year this has been one of their main goals,” Wise said.

The event involved Christian and Ramiro cross-examining each other about education reform and policy implementation

But it doesn’t stop there.

Grant Burbach and Ty Kuykendall at Harlingen High School also performed extremely well in the meet at Hanna High School in Brownsville.

Their coach, Courtney MacNeil, also was proud of their success.

“I think it looks really good for HCISD to have co-champions,” she said.

That’s right. The two students from each of the two high schools decided to shake hands and declare themselves co-champions.

“It is fine if the coaches agree on it and both coaches did agree,” said Leah Ann Ince, instructional coach for speech, drama and debate at the Harlingen school district.

“We’re two schools but one city,” Ince said. “These are students that travel a lot together, they know each other, they’re competitive and at the end of the day we just wanted both Harlingen schools to be in that final round and we wanted both teams to go to state.”

“Me and my partner are very excited to advance to state, especially that we have those friends going over with us to Austin.”

Christian Villarreal, 17, junior at South

“We’ve had a lot of experiences that have helped us to get where we are now and I think that we should be able to succeed at the state tournament. We will be able to do well in everything because of what we’ve acquired on this journey.”

Ramiro Gonzalez Jr., 17, junior at South

“It feels really good to advance to state especially because it’s my senior year. It just seems like a great way to cap off my senior year. Me and my partner Ty did really well because, A, we’ve known each other for four or five years and also just because we both went into the CX competition with a very similar mindset. We’re here to win and we’re going to win so when we’re debating we have that same mindset and I think that really helps us argue more effectively.”

Grant Burbach, 18, senior at Harlingen High School

“I think me and my partner are ecstatic about going to state. This is our first time doing it together which is really cool. For the amount of times that we’ve done this together this is really impressive getting this far. I think it was just confidence. We go into it with a really strong mindset. I think that, along with our coaches, it’s really helped us along the way.”

Ty Kuykendall, 18, senior at Harlingen High School