McKinley Paltzik was the only female finalist competing in international and domestic extemp at this year’s National Speech and Debate Association tournament. 


Since seventh grade, Phoenix Country Day School senior McKinley Paltzik has honed her skills in speech and debate. 

Six years later, her hard work has paid off, as McKinley won the National Speech and Debate Association’s 2022 National Championship in International Extemporaneous Speaking this summer in Louisville, Kentucky.

According to McKinley, there are two types of competitive extemporaneous (without preparation), or extemp, speaking: international and domestic. International is McKinley’s specialty; this deals with the subject of international politics.

“Extemporaneous speaking is a speech and debate event in which a competitor is given a political question and has 30 minutes to prepare a memorized, seven-minute speech answering the question,” McKinley said. “Another competitor then cross-examines their speech.”

McKinley won the national championship in this event, along with the President’s Bowl, an award given to the person who ranks the highest in the final round alone. With these awards, she received a $1,250 scholarship. While at nationals, she competed in an impromptu speaking and congressional debate along with extemp.

McKinley also won the Yale Tournament, New York City Invitational, Montgomery Bell Academy Round Robin, Arizona State Tournament and the Tournament of Champions this year. All of these helped ready her for the national competitions.

“Just attending nationals is a huge accomplishment, as usually only the best two or three competitors from each state are allowed to compete,” McKinley said. 

This year, over 1,000 schools and 7,000 competitors from around the world attended nationals. McKinley competed with about 250 of the best contestants in the country. The tournament lasts for seven days and has 13 rounds. Throughout the tournament, competitors are ranked by nearly 50 judges, and the championship is determined based on cumulative ranks.

This fall, McKinley will begin the college application process. She said she already knows she wants to study government and foreign policy – speech and debate have only fueled this passion. 

“Competing in the final round of the national tournament has been my biggest goal since I started,” she said. “To win is an almost unfathomable honor, and I’m incredibly proud. This championship represents a culmination of thousands of hours of hard work, dedication and effort.”

She said she couldn’t have won nationals without the support of her team and coaches, Mr. Klemp and Rhonda Smith, and her dad, who she said has always been her biggest supporter.

“My dad’s traveled with me to every tournament, let me use his office for online seasons and has been my number one fan since day one,” McKinley said. “To win with him in the audience was so special.”