BY MICHAEL WALTON
TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Central High School arguably fielded the best overall debate team in Michigan this year.
The Trojans took home the George W. Ziegelmueller Trophy after the team's varsity squad won the Michigan Interscholastic Forensic Association Varsity State Tournament on Saturday. It was Central's second varsity state championship in a row.
The trophy, named after the "father" of debate competitions in Michigan and nicknamed the "Ziggy," goes to the school with the highest overall combined point totals for varsity and novice debate teams, MIFA Executive Director Steve Marsh said.
"The Ziggy was absolutely the cherry on top of the sundae," Central debate coach Carol Roehrich said.
Novice teams include only first-year competitors. The Trojans' novice team finished second to Portage Northern High School's team at the novice state tournament in December.
Central's varsity team defeated Midland's Herbert Henry Dow High School with a 3-0 ballot to clinch this year's Tier 2 varsity championship.
Last year the team defeated top-seeded Dexter in the finals on a 2-1 ballot. Central lost to Dexter in the finals the year before that.
The Trojans' varsity team entered this year's tournament with a No. 1 ranking.
"Last year we were the underdogs. This year they had us seeded one coming in, so the target was on our backs before we even started," Roehrich said.
Junior Clara Trippe, and seniors Michael Payne, Callie Chappell and Skylar Thompson comprised the varsity team.
"It was nice to have our work pay off, work we invested throughout the year," Payne said.
Debate competitions focus on one resolution throughout the course of a season. The resolution this year was the value of transportation infrastructure investment.
Roehrich, who also teaches English, debate and theater at Central, plans to retire at the end of this school year.
"Hopefully someone will take this program and run with it," she said. "This is a prime coaching position to inherit."
Central Principal Rick Vandermolen said Traverse City Area Public Schools started a nationwide search for candidates who can replace Roehrich as a teacher and a coach.
"We're looking for a teacher who has an interest and some expertise in debate and forensics and theater," Vandermolen said. "I'm asking for a lot."