Los Alamos Hilltalkers Headed To National Tournament

Fourteen members of the LAHS Hilltalkers have qualified for the National Speech and Debate Tournament. Photo Courtesy LAPS


Fourteen members of the Los Alamos High School Hilltalkers have qualified for the 2023 National Speech and Debate Tournament. The tournament will be held in Phoenix, Arizona in June. 

They prevailed over 169 entries from 14 New Mexico schools to qualify for this competitive tournament. This number of qualifiers is a record number for the Hilltalkers in their 61-year history. 

These students now rank in the top 2% of speakers and debaters in the National Speech and Debate Association. 

The students who have qualified for nationals are:

Duo Interpretation:

  • Philippa Fung and Taylor Kanzleiter (3-time qualifier in Duo Interpretation)
  • Rylee Mecham and Keturah Sherrill (2-time qualifier in Duo Interpretation)

Program Oral Interpretation:

  • Yunseo Kim (4-time qualifier: only .01% of NSDA members achieve this distinction)
  • Tevita Funaki
  • Matthea Fung

Lincoln Douglas Debate:

  • Uxue Sansinena (2-time qualifier in Lincoln Douglas debate)

Big Questions Debate:

  • Linnhtet Htoon

House Congressional Debate:

  • Luke Creel
  • Maximus Posada (3-time qualifier)

Senate Congressional Debate: 

  • Luke Favorite (3-time qualifier)

World Schools Debate:

  • Minhtet Htoon
  • Carina Lanier

In addition, four students were named as alternates to the National Qualifiers for these categories:

Emily Xu, second alternate, Humorous Interpretation

Zoe Bent, first alternate, Big Questions Debate, 2nd alternate Congressional Debate

Lin Wolf, first alternate, Informative Speaking

Max Posada, first alternate, Lincoln Douglas Debate

Yunseo Kim was named the 2023 New Mexico District Student of the Year, and is now entered in the National Student of the Year nomination pool.

For the first time in their history, the Hilltalkers earned the highest points in Congressional Debate and won Sweepstakes in this event.

The Hilltalkers are coached by Margo Batha and Tacarra Lake, teachers at Los Alamos High School. “I am so excited to work with our Hilltalkers as they prepare for the National Speech and Debate Tournament in June,” stated Mrs. Batha, “I know they will work to compete at the very highest level and I’m excited to see what they will achieve at this next level.”

Sherri Bublitz, Los Alamos Middle School Hawktalkers Speech and Debate team coach, stated, “I am thrilled to see so many alumni of the LAMS Hawktalkers program heading to the National tournament!  Of the 14 Hilltalkers, 10 were Hawktalkers first.  The skills learned in middle school laid the foundation for these future leaders to use their voices well, both in life and in competition.  I am confident they will continue to be strong critical thinkers, poised speakers, and unflappable influencers.”

Noel Trujillo, retired LAHS Speech and Debate coach and English teacher, is the newest inductee to the New Mexico Speech and Debate Association Coach Hall of Fame.  He gave a speech encouraging students to follow Theodore Roosevelt’s advice to continue to dare greatly and hone the life skills they are learning through speech and debate. 

About the National Speech & Debate Association: The National Speech & Debate Association is the largest interscholastic speech and debate organization serving middle school, high school, and collegiate students in the United States. The Association provides competitive speech and debate activities, high-quality resources, comprehensive training, scholarship opportunities, and advanced recognition to more than 140,000 students and coaches every year. For nearly 100 years, the National Speech & Debate Association has empowered more than 2 million members to become engaged citizens, skilled professionals, and honorable leaders in our society. For more information, visit www.speechanddebate.org.