2017 National Qualifying Tournament

On March 18, the New Mexico District of the National Speech and Debate Association hosted its annual award ceremony. At this ceremony, forty-one high school students from across the state were named as National Qualifiers. New Mexico also set a record with the number of total schools represented at the National Tournament; 16 different high school will compete at the National Tournament held in Birmingham, AL June 18-24. In addition, several outstanding professionals were recognized for significant achievements and contributions. This year’s honorees include:

Alumni Achievement Award: Noreen Kassam, White House and Dept. of Homeland Security
Noreen Kassam graduated from Albuquerque Academy in 2008. Noreen was one of the most successful Congressional Debaters in the nation and was New Mexico’s first ever Student of the Year nomination.  After graduation, Noreen attended George Washington University where she continued her academic studies and had the honor of being the commencement speaker of her graduating class in 2012.  In addition to her studies, Noreen began working in politics, eventually securing a position in the Department of Homeland Security.  That experience led her to become a part of President Obama’s security detail – a position she held until January of this year.

Communicator of the Year: Visit Albuquerque, Larry Atchison Assoc. Director of Sales
Larry Atchison and other members of the Visit Albuquerque team recently put together a bid for Albuquerque to host the 2020 National Speech and Debate Tournament. The bid was described by the national office as the bid by which future organizations will be compared. Because of their efforts, Albuquerque is being considered as part of the permanent rotation of National tournament locations.      

Volunteer Award: David Carr, Los Alamos
Earlier this school year, New Mexico Speech and Debate lost one of its greatest supporters. David Carr of Los Alamos was one of the most frequent judges on our circuit and was a fixture at the National Qualifying Tournament every year. David passed away this past September after a battle with cancer. His wife and children remain important Speech and Debate supporters. And New Mexico Speech and Debate will forever be in his debt.

Student of the Year: Erick Beltran, Rio Grande High School

Erick was chosen by this year’s coaches as the student who best embodies the traits of our Honor Code: humility, integrity, leadership, respect, and service.  

Qualifiers in Congressional Debate

Kellen Nee, East Mountain HS
Annika Davenport, Jemez Mountain Home School

Gina Sanchez, East Mountain HS

Kayla Moehn, Saint Pius X HS

Steffen Ortiz, East Mountain High School

Qualifiers in Policy Debate
Caitlin Sweet and Nick Justice, La Cueva High School
Giacomo Coppola and Sarbjot Jessop, Santa Fe Prep

Qualifiers in Lincoln Douglas Debate
Michelle Zhou, La Cueva High School
Antonio Dowdy, Los Alamos High School

Qualifiers in Public Forum Debate

Abby Lutz and Jacob Leischner, La Cueva High School
Khaled Khweis and Diego Fristoe, Taos High School

Qualifiers in United States Extemporaneous Speaking
Lauren Kiesel, Albuquerque Academy
Ruda Nighot, Albuquerque Academy

Qualifiers in International Extemporaneous Speaking
AJ Awwad, Albuquerque Academy
Betty Zhang, Albuquerque Academy

Qualifiers in Original Oratory
Mireya Sanchez-Maes, Mayfield High School
Emily Buxengaard, Desert Academy

Qualifiers in Humorous Interpretation
Aria Gaston-Panthaki, Albuquerque Academy
Trevor Nickless, Los Alamos High School

Qualifiers in Dramatic Interpretation
Ana Rael, NM School for the Arts
Sylka Feliciano, NM School for the Arts

Qualifiers in Duo Interpretation

Emily Holmes and Neha Sadasivan, Los Alamos High School
Rose Meizlesh and Christina Minetos, Sandia High School

Qualifiers in Program Oral Interpretation
Kathryn Sokolowski, Eldorado High School
Maria Bentley, East Mountain High School

Informative Speaking
Tiffany Delgado, East Mountain High School
Brandi Weiss, Los Alamos High School

Big Questions Debate
Samuel Menefee, Los Alamos High School

World Schools Debate
Erick Beltran, Rio Grande High School
Hannah Brewer, Farmington High School
Katelyn Key, East Mountain High School
Tim Mondloch, Del Norte High School

Will McCumber, Los Alamos High School
Sarah Shipley, Los Alamos High School
Andy Shen, Los Alamos High School