Rigby debate student takes third in the nation

Bethany Jones took third in the nation for her speaking abilities at the National Speech and Debate competition.

Bethany Sky Jones, daughter of Becky and James Jones of Rigby, joined the Rigby High School Debate Team as a freshman with a fear of public speaking.

“My sister did debate and I joined because of my fear,” Jones said. “I thought it would help me overcome that.”

Despite her concerns, Jones said she focused on goal setting, using each tournament as a way to focus on an individual skill. Her work paid off as she qualified for the national competition – four times.

“I really think it’s a culmination of her career in debate,” Debate Coach Brock Sondrup said. “She’s gotten better each year, works really hard and is a captain. She will definitely be missed.”

Sondrup, who studied communication, has been the speech and debate coach for the last five years. He also coaches the freshman football team.

“I just like to help out and be involved where I can,” he said.

When Sondrup first started, he had seven students on the team. Now in 2020, he had 50 students on the team.

“For a debate team, that’s pretty impressive,” he said.

As Jones' senior year went from in school to online, the National Competition took to the Zoom platform to finish up the debate season.

According to Sondrup, with Idaho’s loosened regulations, he was able to bring the Rigby competitors into the school where he set up each student in their own classroom with a computer and any other needs they would have during the competition.

“It was really interesting to do it over Zoom,” Jones said. “We would have to sign into our debate 30 minutes early to communicate with the judge and check that our microphones were working.”

The topic, intergenerational accumulation of wealth is antithetical (incompatible) to democracy.

As the five day competition came to a close, Jones took third in the nation for her speaking ability.

“The coaches spend so much time preparing us, I didn’t want to let them down,” Jones said. “I wanted to show them how much they’ve helped me.”

Now that Jones has graduated from Rigby, she plans to attend Utah State University to study Public Health. She then wants to attend medical school to become a Pediatrician.

“I know it’s not anything to do with debate but debate helped me immensely,” she said. “It helped me communicate with people better and it gave me confidence to reach for my goals and taught me about having a work ethic.”