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Central Valley Senior Talks Herself Into Qualifying For Lincoln-Douglas Debate

Sat., March 29, 1997

From nowhere to nationals, Central Valley High School debater Natasha Usai has had a good year.

A senior and a first-year debater, Usai has earned her way to national competition in the Lincoln-Douglas debate.

“This is a true story,” said Marc Thielman, one of two debate coaches at Central Valley. “She went literally from not knowing anything about debate to qualifying.”

Usai, who competed successfully this year as a junior varsity Lincoln-Douglas debater, qualified at a regional tournament at Gonzaga University earlier this month. She is one of two students in the Spokane area to qualify in the Lincoln-Douglas debate, and the only debater in the Valley to reach nationals this year. The competition will be in Bloomington, Minn., June 15-20.

The Lincoln-Douglas debate pits students one-on-one, arguing a philosophic concept.

Knowing that she’s been up against more experienced debaters, Usai said she’s battled doubts about her ability.

“But now, I’m beginning to think I’m playing in the right ballgame,” she said. Usai’s mother, Susan, had done well in high school debate and encouraged her daughter to try it. “So I was inspired,” Natasha said.

Thielman said he gave Usai the chance to compete at varsity level in the qualifying meet when his varsity debaters were out of town.

“She’s very charismatic and very dramatic. She has an air about her that appeals to judges,” Thielman said. Usai also works extremely hard in and out of class, he said.

“She’d come to me and say ‘Thielman, I’m going to rewrite my case,’ and I would say, ‘Why? You’re undefeated,’ and she would say ‘I know, but it’s not quite right.’

“She’s a gem.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo


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