With earning trips to nationals and team awards, the Newton High School Debate and Forensics team is pulling in accolades this month.

Recently Newton High School was notified by letter that the school had earned the 2016-17 Leading Chapter Award in the West Kansas District. The award is based on student participation throughout the school year and, according to J. Scott Wunn, executive director of the National Speech and Debate Association, is the highest honor given by the association.

"The Leading chapter award is given out to the school in the district with the most competitive rounds during National Speech and Debate Association qualifying tournaments and the national tournament," said David Williams, coach of the Newton High School Forensics teams. "Once a school wins the award, the school gets reset to zero rounds. Schools have to wait at least five years before they may win the award again. The award means our program is competitive and has been over a long period of time."

According to Wunn, only 108 schools receive the award. Newton's honor reflects more than 894 members and degrees over an 11 year period.

"In that time, several hundred students have been taught communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration skills through speech and debate," Wunn wrote.

Newton will receive a plaque at the 2017-18 district tournament. 

As if earning that accolade were not enough, Newton recently took first and second place overall at the NSDA West Kansas policy debate district tournament —and also qualified for state in four-speaker  debate.

The team of Kahalil Kumar and Fletcher Hummingbird took first place overall at the tournament with a 6-0 record. Chase Cassil and Kenton Fox finished 5-1 and in second place.

"We only lost to ourselves and both teams get to attend the nationals tournament," Williams said.

The national tournament will be in June at Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

At the state four-speaker debate qualifier, Newton tied on wins with Kapaun but lost on a tiebreaker. Newton, Blue Valley Southwest, Mill Valley, Lansing, Goddard Eisenhower, Kapaun, Emporia, Shawnee Heights and Topeka Seaman all participated in that tournament.