DES MOINES, IOWA (July 17, 2017) – From more than 150-thousand student members of the National Speech & Debate Association (NSDA), we are proud to recognize the top finalists in the world’s largest academic competition. The National Speech & Debate Tournament was held in Birmingham, Alabama June 18-23, 2017 with more than 4,000 qualifying competitors. The top placing students not only took home a National Championship title and awards, but more than $200,000 in scholarship money.

“It is quite an accomplishment to qualify to the National Speech and Debate Tournament,”said J. Scott Wunn, Executive Director of the National Speech & Debate Association.  “Only 3% of high school speech and debate competitors qualify, and less than 1% of speech and debate students can call themselves a national champion. These students are extraordinarily talented and we look forward to the great things they will do with their talents in the future.”

We’re proud to recognize the top four National Speech and Debate Tournament finalists in Big Questions Debate presented by the John Templeton Foundation:

4th place

(Receiving a $2,500 scholarship from the John Templeton Foundation)

Anna Newell

Minnetonka High School ― Minnetonka, MN

Coached by Nathan Van Dyke

3rd place

(Receiving a $2,500 scholarship from the John Templeton Foundation)

Aidan Fitzgerald

Chaminade High School ― Mineola, New York

Coached by Brother John McGrory

2nd Place

(Receiving a $5,000 scholarship from the John Templeton Foundation)

Rebecca Roy

Watertown High School ― Watertown, SD

Coached by Scott Walker and Kyle Downey


(Receiving a $10,000 scholarship from the John Templeton Foundation)

Xavior Lewis

Lee’s Summit North High School ― Lee’s Summit, Missouri

Coached by Benjamin D. Jewell


About the Big Questions Debate―

Big Questions is a debate format where student grapple with complex worldview questions as they debate both sides of the topic: Resolved: Science leaves no room for free will. The Big Questions debates are supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. During the 2016-17 academic year, the National Speech & Debate Association awarded over $370,000 to speech and debate teams for Big Questions events. It will provide another $500,000 to eligible Big Questions events this next academic year. These debates can be held as tournament, squad scrimmage, or classroom events.  Additional information can be found at

About the National Speech & Debate Association―

The National Speech & Debate Association is the largest interscholastic speech and debate organization serving middle school, high school, and collegiate students in the United States. The Association provides competitive speech and debate activities, high-quality resources, comprehensive training, scholarship opportunities, and advanced recognition to more than 150,000 students and coaches every year. For 90 years, the National Speech & Debate Association has empowered more than 1.5 million members to become engaged citizens, skilled professionals, and honorable leaders in our society. For more information, visit

About the annual National Speech & Debate Tournament―

The NSDA has hosted the National Tournament in cities across the country since 1931. The 2018 National Tournament event will be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL with the 2019 event to be held in Dallas, TX.  For more information, visit

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Shelby Young at the National Speech & Debate Association, (920) 748-6206,




This publication was made possible through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.