Six EMHS Students Qualify for National Speech and Debate Tournament

For the ninth year in a row, East Mountain High School has qualified to the world’s largest academic competition: the National Speech and Debate Tournament. A National Tournament spot is earned after placing 1st or 2nd in a debate event at the statewide level. These students will represent EMHS in Birmingham, AL June 18-24.

The students and their qualifying events include:

Senior Maria Bentley, Program Oral Interpretation
Junior Gina Sanchez, Congressional Debate
Junior Katelyn Key, World Schools Debate
Sophomore Tiffany Delgado, Informative Speaking
Sophomore Kellen Nee, Congressional Debate
Freshman Steffen Ortiz, Congressional Debate

Two members of the team, Gina and Tiffany, qualified to the National Tournament last year in Salt Lake City. Gina Sanchez wrote,

“I am just as excited to qualify to nationals this year as I was last year, only I am more experienced. Being able to represent my state at the national tournament is an honor and I hope to grow as a debater from this experience. When I think back about my time in speech and debate as a freshman, I cringe a little, but I also feel grateful to have progressed so much. Now, and a junior, going to nationals is validation that hard work and dedication really do pay off. However, I could not have grown so much without the support of my teammates, family, and coaches and I am excited to make them proud at the national tournament.”

Coach Trey Smith said, “This is our first year to qualify students from every grade level. And with Maria Bentley’s qualification in Program Oral Interpretation, East Mountain High School has officially seen qualifiers in every Speech and Debate event. I am particularly excited to watch our returning National qualifiers progress through the tournament.”

The students now must fundraise for the cost of the trip which is over $11,000. Anyone interested in donating to the EMHS Speech and Debate trip to Nationals should contact Trey Smith at or 505-480-4481 or visit this link:

To learn more about the National Speech and Debate Association, visit