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CHS debate brings home ‘Brack-to-Brack’ state championships

Captains of the CHS debate team, standing in front of the rest of the team, are from left, Sonny DeMartino, Andy Herndon and Mark Zimmer, flanked by coaches Lyndsey Oliver, left, and Richard Bracknell. CHS Principal Ian Lyle is behind Oliver. The team captured its 12th state championship last weekend.

Long-time Carrollton High School debate coach Richard Bracknell not only brought home yet another state title Saturday but was also the recipient of the 2022 Georgia Forensic Coaches Association Debate Coach of the Year award, long-deserved validation of a revered coach who produced an exceptional legacy that will stand the test of time.

The team captured its 12th state title in the Public Forum debate contest, where senior Andy Herndon and junior Mark Zimmer outperformed a competitive Sequoyah High School team in a 2-1 decision to secure the championship. 

Bracknell said the team debated the merits of increasing domestic organic agriculture. 

“Notably, Andy and Mark argued for increased protection of bees and pollinators on the pro side, and a dramatic increase in the land needed for organic agriculture as one of the cons,” said Bracknell.

Andy, who also was named CHS’s STAR Student for the Class of 2022, and Mark, a junior, came to the contest with strong experience, as they advanced to the semifinal round last year that helped produce a state title for 2021.

The back-to-back, or as team members prefer, the “brack-to-brack” state championships brings the total tally to 12, keeping debate as the program with the second-most state championships in the school’s history, surpassed only by boys track.

Andy, Mark and Sonny DeMartino serve as captains of the team this year. Other team members are Olivia Berry, Carrie York, Grace Bergquist, Hal Mitchell, Olivia Heggie, Drew Johnson, Eden Long, Ryder Johnson, Lila Pace, Will Roberson, Kieran Kelly, Audrey Browning, Luke Zimmer, Tee Hawkins, and John Houser. Bracknell noted the team’s future remains bright, as only five seniors will graduate in May.

Bracknell also noted the Zimmer brothers are continuing a family legacy – their uncle, Dr. Jubal Watts, was a debater on the 1992 state championship team Bracknell coached. In fact, he was the coach for all Carrollton debate state titles.

Bracknell has been honored many times for his accomplishments as a debate coach, and can now add a second GFCA Coach of the Year honor to his resumé. He was inducted into the GFCA Coaches Hall of Fame in 2001, is a A Six Diamond Coach in the National Speech and Debate Association, a Key Coach of the Barkley Forum at Emory University, and a member of the GFCA Hall of Fame. And outside of debate, he has been named STAR Teacher of the Year by the STAR Students who chose him more than any other CHS teacher, at 13 times.

Principal Ian Lyle said the CHS debate program is fortunate to have Bracknell, and so are the kids. 

“Their success this year was not luck, but pure perseverance, intelligence, and a competitive spirit that was exceptional,” said Lyle. “I am extremely proud of all of them and so appreciative of Coach Bracknell’s influence that will carry these students not only through debate, but through life.”

THE HISTORICAL RECORD: Carrollton’s debate program not only shines in the academic realm, but also stands out among all competitive entities at CHS, boasting the second highest number of state championships earned in the school’s history, surpassed only by boys track. The team has been crowned state champion 12 times – in 1987, 1988, 1989, 1992, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2003, 2010, 2018, 2021 and 2022. The team was the state runner-up champion seven times – in 1986, 1990, 1991, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2004. The team also has captured numerous region titles and tournament wins.

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