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Wired jaw might cramp debater's vocal style

One of the state's top student debaters might have a tough time competing this spring. His mouth is wired shut because his jaw is broken. Mark Masson was injured last week when he was hit outside a Jacksonville junior high school by a 17-year-old youth who has been charged with aggravated battery.

"It's like a track star getting his legs broken," said Masson, a sophomore at Sandalwood High School, pushing his slurred words from a swollen mouth. "I'm devastated that I might not be able to compete. I live to debate. That's what I do."

Masson said his first concern when he regained consciousness in the ambulance was whether he could compete in upcoming state and national qualifier tournaments.

He wants to earn a debate scholarship to study business administration and pre-law at Northwestern University or Michigan State. But he acknowledged that might be difficult with his jaw wired shut.

"Competing and being seen in nationals this year and next are the only way to be recognized for a college scholarship," said Masson, a B student. "Those competitions mean everything to me. I'm counting on debate as my edge to get me into the college of my choice."

Dr. Laurier McCravy, Masson's doctor, said the debater's jaw will be wired shut for at least three weeks.

Masson talked with his debate coach, speech teacher Carmen Adkins, to see whether he could compete in his present condition.

"He definitely won't be up to par, but I think he's got a good shot at nationals even with his jaw clamped shut, because he's that good," she said.

Masson and his debate partner, 16-year-old Mike Jackman, are scheduled to compete March 1-3 in Tampa. They won the district tournament last month in Gainesville.

They have earned spots in two national qualifier tournaments in Fort Lauderdale and Winter Park later in March.

If they do well in those competitions, they could earn bids to compete in national debate tournaments in San Francisco and Chicago this summer.