Return to Headlines

Liberty Middle Schoolers Named National Finalists

West Fargo, ND – (June 26th, 2023) – The National Speech and Debate Association’s (NSDA) annual middle school national tournament was held June 11-16 in Phoenix, Arizona. Abhi Kotala was awarded National Runner-Up in Humorous Interpretation, and Norah Casas was awarded National 6th Place in Mixed Extemp Speaking. Eighth graders Norah Casas and Abhi Kotala and seventh grader Avni Banerjee traveled to Phoenix with coach Krista Hulderman to compete at the first in-person NSDA National Middle School Tournament since 2019 due to the pandemic. In 2022, Abhi Kotala competed virtually.

Head coach Kelsey Johnson says, “I am awed at the talent, dedication, and excitement our middle schoolers bring to speech and debate activities. This is Abhi’s second year and Norah and Avni’s first year in forensics – and they were poised and confident speakers going against kids who have been doing this since 3rd or 4th grade at prestigious and nationally ranked speech and debate schools. For two of our kids to break into finals is such an accomplishment!” 

Speech and debate provide educational skills vital to a young person’s success in the future, 
such as building confidence, improving communication, and increasing their critical thinking 
skills. Schools with speech and debate programs regularly report higher test scores, a rise in 
college acceptance rates, and higher classroom engagement.

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 150,000 students and coaches every year. For nearly 100 years, the National Speech & Debate Association has empowered more than 1.5 million members to become engaged citizens, skilled professionals, and honorable leaders in our society. For more information, visit

Travis Gavin