Temecula middle school finishes 5th in national debate championship

TEMECULA – St. Jeanne de Lestonnac School in Temecula is one of the top five middle school debate teams in the country, as a result of their finish at the Middle School Debate National Championships in Claremont, California last week.

The national tournament was held April 26 at Claremont McKenna College. It was open only to top-qualified teams from each of the 15 middle school debate leagues around the country. Approximately 255 debaters on 85 teams participated, arriving from as far away as New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C.

Eighth graders Ali Rawlings, Michelle DeMers, and Soren Crisell represented St. Jeanne de Lestonnac School at the tournament. The team finished with four wins and one loss to earn 5th place overall in the nation. They also won the “Top of the League” trophy for being the highest finisher in the Inland Valley League.

St. Jeanne’s finished ahead of teams from such prestigious schools as Polytechnic, Harvard-Westlake, Hunter College Middle (New York), Brentwood School, and many others.

“The team’s accomplishment is nothing short of amazing,” said Monisha Crisell, M.D., founder and co-director of St. Jeanne’s debate team. “The hard work and dedication of Ali, Michelle, and Soren have inspired the entire school. No team from Southwest Riverside has ever finished so high in the tournament.

The three Temecula debaters earned individual speaker awards as well. Rawlings finished among the top ten speakers in the nation, earning 7th place overall. Additionally, Crisell earned 16th place and DeMers earned 17th place.

The team of Rawlings, DeMers, and Crisell will defend their league title next month.

This year is the third anniversary of the debate program at St. Jeanne de Lestonnac. The team was founded and coached by Mary Burnham, the school’s middle school language arts teacher; and Monisha Crisell, a local physician and parent of two children at the school.

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