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Up for Debate!

The Murrah High School Speech and Debate team travelled more than 4,000 miles during the 2016-17 season.

However, the long bus rides have paid off. Fourteen members of the Murrah team have qualified for the National Catholic Forensics League tournament May 26-28 at Louisville, KY.

Murrah’s national qualifiers include: freshmen Jeffrey Caliedo (Prose & Poetry), Evan Morrisey (Policy), and Micahya Burton (Declamation); sophomores Matthew Araujo, Maggie Jefferis, and Zeke Morgan (all Policy); juniors Justin Bell (Lincoln-Douglas), Sophia Bowley (Public Forum), Makallen Kelley (Prose & Poetry), Kirsten Moore and Tosin Akinyemi (Duo Interp); and seniors Jamil Johnson (Extemp), Jose Navas (Public Forum), and Artez Gibson (Dramatic Performance). 

The team’s booster club is currently raising money to send these 14 students to nationals. Costs for the trip, including bus, hotel rooms, and registration, will total over $8,000. Tax-deductible donations may be sent to the Murrah Debate Quiz Bowl Boosters - a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit - at 4318 Council Circle, Jackson, 39206. Donations can also be made online at (Online donations are also tax-deductible.) 

Araujo, Morrisey, and Navas also have qualified for the National Speech and Debate Association National Tournament to be held June 18-23 in Birmingham, Ala. Araujo and Morrisey will be competing in Policy Debate, and Navas will compete in Congressional Debate. Morrisey is the first freshman in school history to qualify for the tournament.

In addition, 29 students qualified for the Mississippi High School Activities Association’s state tournament to be held April 28-29 at Northwest Rankin. Those students include:

Freshmen: Micahya Burton, Caliedo, Morrisey, Ella Rockoff, Abigail Showalter, Imani Skipwith.

Sophomores: Araujo, Sean Collins, Ava Davis, Charlie Deaton, Kaitlyn Fowler, Maggie Jefferis, Zeke Morgan, Tajai Shelton.

Juniors: Tosin Akinyemi, Justin Bell, Sophia Bowley, Alton Chambers, Mikayla Faulkner, Jeremiah Henry, Christian Johnson, Kirsten Moore, Chyna Stewart.

Seniors: Artez Gibson, Rachel Hairston, Jamil Johnson, Makallen Kelley, Navas, Trevian Strong. 

The long season – stretching from September to March – was among the busiest ever for the Murrah team, which is ranked third in Mississippi by the National Speech & Debate Association. The 55 active students on the roster traveled to competitions in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Georgia. The team collected 19 individual championships in various events. In addition, the team achieved “close-outs” in three tournaments, which means two debaters or teams from the same school reach the finals. That guarantees that school first and second place.

Other highlights from this season include: 

  • In Public Forum Debate, Bowley and Navas vs. Strong and Jamil Johnson at DeSoto Central.
  • In Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Bell vs. Christian Johnson at Oxford High School.
  • In Policy Debate, Jamil Johnson and Navas vs. Araujo and Morrisey at Madison Central.
  • In October, Jamil Johnson and Strong took first in Public Forum Debate at Holy Cross (New Orleans) defeating teams from Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Minnesota.
  • In January, Mikayla Faulkner advanced to the quarterfinal round in Prose & Poetry Interpretation, ranking in the top 24 students in a field of 95 competitors from 35 states.

This season’s individual championships:

  • Bowley & Navas - Public Forum - Oak Grove
  • Strong & Jamil Johnson - Public Forum - Holy Cross
  • Bell - Lincoln-Douglas and Storytelling - Petal
  • Chambers - Lincoln-Douglas - St. Andrew’s
  • Bell - Storytelling - St. Andrew’s
  • Araujo and Morrisey - Policy - DeSoto Central
  • Araujo and Morrisey - Policy - Pascagoula
  • Akinyemi and Moore - Duo Interp - Oxford
  • Navas - Congressional Debate (House) - Pascagoula
  • Araujo and Morrisey - Policy - Mississippi State University
  • Bowley and Navas - Public Forum - Jackson Prep
  • Navas - Congressional Debate - Jackson Prep
  • Caliedo - Prose & Poetry - Jackson Prep
  • Bell - Lincoln-Douglas - Jackson Prep
  • Navas - Informative Speaking - Madison Central

The team is coached by Erin Mauffray, Javier Peraza, and Micah Everson.


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