Harlingen speech and debate kids win big at nationals in Phoenix

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Harlingen CISD’s fourth place winner in prose during the 2023 national competition for speech and debate in Phoenix. (Courtesy of Harlingen CISD)

HARLINGEN — George Matthew Gutierrez went to Phoenix last week to tell a story.

He told the story so well that the student at Dr. Abraham P. Cano Freshman Academy placed second and was the national runner up for his event at the 2023 National Speech and Debate Tournament in Phoenix.

“I feel very accomplished after coming home from nationals and honored to be a part of such a talented team that represents Harlingen so well,” George Matthew said. “Additionally, I am ready to continue my journey with Speech and Debate and continue to set the bar for myself.”

George Matthew and his fellow speech, drama and debate contestants represented the Harlingen school district well at the competition June 10-17. Harlingen High School South was named as a School of Excellence, placing the school’s program within the top 20 programs in the United States.

Middle schoolers did well too.

Catalina Cabello-Corona took third place in poetry.

“My poetry was about the struggles one learns to overcome with an eating disorder,” said Catalina, an eighth grader at Vela Middle School.

Her brother Javier, a seventh grader, took second place in poetry.

“My piece was about a serial killer,” he said. “It is not a friendly or nice piece. It is quite frankly a little disturbing. It tells the story of a person who was lost in loneliness and how it takes him to do what he did.”

Back in the high school level, Adrianna Rodriguez took fourth place in Duo Interpretation with C.J. Heiskell about a woman and her son struggling with his drug addiction.

Harlingen CISD’s fifth place winner in poetry during the 2023 national competition for speech and debate in Phoenix. (Courtesy of Harlingen CISD)

“I feel so much gratitude to have been recognized for a story that is so important to share in today’s climate,” Adrianna, a sophomore, said. “I feel that our performance stood out because of the attention to detail in the relationship that we performed.”

Instructors at all levels were delighted at this year’s results.

“John and I are so incredibly proud of the kids and all that they have accomplished,” Eddy Cavazos said. He and John Reynolds are theater directors and speech coaches at Harlingen South.

Sandra Luna was one of the coaches who worked with the middle schoolers.

“They were practicing hard even up to the day of competition,” Luna said. “They just pulled through and got everything done. They were so determined that they were going to make finals starting day one and sure enough they did make finals.”

Harlingen CISD’s speech and debate students came away with some hardware after competing as finalists at the 2023 national competition in Phoenix. (Courtesy of Harlingen CISD)