An Expert Debater


Maddy Bale, Senior Managing Editor

She didn’t know she held the first place ranking.

Senior Marysia Hyrc was surprised when she was approached for an interview about her first place status in the National Speech and Debate Association’s list of top merit competitors in Eastern Missouri, one of the country’s strongest and most competitive districts.

“I didn’t know our district even ranked people,” Hyrc said. “It’s exciting, but it doesn’t really change much, because I have always seen the debate community as a group of [friends].”

In fact, Hyrc first joined Clayton’s Forensics team at about this time three years ago not out of a desire to win, but out of the motivation to be with her friends.  “Because a lot of my friends were joining [the team], I thought I would try it out and just see what happened,” Hyrc said.

Despite her success, Hyrc was not always such an accomplished competitor.  In her very first round, she was stopped in the middle of her speech.  “I remember being absolutely terrified,” Hyrc said. “I was the first person to speak in my room, and the judge stopped me to say that I was going too fast and that she couldn’t understand anything I was saying.”

As her judge requested, Hyrc restarted her prose-reading round with a slower speed, and only a year later, she was helping Clayton’s captain of Lincoln-Douglas Debate run his morning meetings.  

“I like LD Debate because it deals a lot with morals and higher issues,” Hyrc said.  “Having an outlet for my opinions and being able to share them in a very organized way [with] adults in the community is very powerful and special.”

After assisting the Lincoln-Douglas captain throughout her sophomore year, Hyrc acted as the official captain of LD debate and also as the captain of both Domestic Extemporaneous Speaking and Storytelling.  Responsible for organizing events and instructing potential competitors, captains are often viewed as the backbone of the team.

For her final year of competition, Hyrc was elected by her fellow teammates as President.

“Marysia goes way above and beyond for the team in every way, and she sets a great example,” said Junior Kate Cooper, another member of the team’s board of leadership.  “Our board meetings are [always] on track thanks to Marysia.  She is always open to suggestions and [willing] to put them into place when the rest of the board agrees with them,” Cooper said.

Between her responsibilities on the team, Marysia still finds plenty of time to compete.  She attributes her 1,676 NSDA points and first-place ranking not to her success, but to the amount of the rounds she has accumulated.  

“It’s actually a rather complicated algorithm that takes into account how often students compete and how successful they are,” said Forensics teacher and coach Justin Seiwell.  

Due to the point system’s heavier weight on the amount of a student’s completed rounds, the National Speech and Debate Association Honor Society manages to recognize not only competitively successful students, but also students who have committed themselves to the activity and continue to participate.  

“Marysia has been doing this for a long time, [and] she’s a very successful debater, so at this point, she is ranked the highest,” Seiwell said.

Not only has Marysia achieved the top rank, but she has also earned the Honor Society’s most prestigious and elusive Premier Degree.  In more than 70 years of the team’s history, only four students have achieved this degree, Hyrc being the first to do so as a junior.

“In order to get to this Premier Distinction, a student has to make speech and debate not only a top priority, but the top priority,” Seiwell said.  

The challenge presented by the Premier Degree only increases in Missouri where, unlike many parts of the country, Speech and Debate is often treated as an extracurricular as opposed to a curricular program with allotted time during the school day.  

“That, to me, only heightens how impressive Marysia’s accomplishment is,” Seiwell said.  “She’s working in an environment in which students have to work even harder to excel to the level that she has.”

However, Hyrc’s top ranking has not changed anything about her attitude toward competition.  

“The fact that the volume of my rounds has added up highest doesn’t make me any better, and [other competitors] still beat me in a significant number of rounds, which I enjoy,” Hyrc said.


Speech, Debate, and Interpretation has allowed Hyrc to share her voice, and for that reason, Hyrc continues to set goals for herself even after reaching the top of Eastern Missouri.

“Practice definitely makes perfect.  Freshman year, I had no idea what was going on,” Hyrc said.  “Coming so far from that and being able to develop an attitude of improvement has been so beneficial.  Our team is so much about not looking at the ranking on the ballot but instead looking at the feedback on the ballot and seeing where we can go from there.”

With her goal-oriented, progressive attitude, Hyrc is considered the epitome of Clayton Speech and Debate by many team members.  “Marysia is very successful [but] also very humble,” Cooper said.  “The way she is able to accomplish so many things within the team and outside of the team makes me think it’s possible for me to [do the same].”

While she demonstrates all that can be achieved through commitment to Speech, Debate, and Interpretation, Hyrc also reminds her teammates to compete for the right reasons.  “I debate more to have constructive conversations than to win.”