Debate team strikes gold on national circuit

Melanie Roberts, Staff Writer

The debate team competed at the Lakeland Westchester Classic in Shrub Oak, NY, on Mar. 1 and 2, successfully walking away with a pair of varsity co-champions and two pairs of junior varsity semi-finalists.

The competition was a big milestone for the team, as it was the final one of the season and the first national competition for the team. Throughout the season the team made great headway in the monthly county circuit tournaments, having three pairs qualify for the Montgomery County Debate League finals.

The national circuit tournaments are a different challenge. The goal of these competitions for teams is to get enough “bids” to ultimately attend the Tournament of Champions, which is considered the national championship. “It is the largest, most prestigious tournament in the nation for debate that ends each season. It has an invite-only system, where teams must earn ‘bids’ by reaching certain rounds, depending on the size of the tournament. The Lakeland competition was one of these bid opportunities,” junior Carter Tegen said.

The debate team here competes in a style of debate called “Public Forum,” where students debate in pairs. For the Lakeland competition, the team sent four pairs to compete in the varsity division and two in the junior varsity.

Preparation for the team was largely individualized, with each pair creating their own strategy. The varsity co-champion team, made up of juniors Carter Tegen and Kevin Zeng, had prior knowledge of the topic, thus making their preparation straightforward. “Kevin and I had already been to two tournaments on this topic (UPenn and Harvard) and were already pretty prepared. We mostly polished what we already had to prepare,” Tegen said.

For many members of the debate team, success serves as their major motivator to move forward. Those on the team without prior experience on the national circuit took a step forward in becoming more acclimated to debate at a higher level. “This is our first year debating, so we didn’t expect to be so successful. Then, with hard work, we started winning, which was surreal,” Ilangovan said.

The team concluded their season with a strong performance at Lakeland. Looking toward the future, the team is “focusing on building a strong foundation for the team to be even bigger and better next year,” junior co-captain Meghana Kotraiah said.

The co-captain expressed delight in her team’s performance. “Our co-champs, semi-finalists, and all of our other teams have put in so much hard work and that’s something to be proud of,” Kotraiah said.

Tegen and Zeng were awarded a gold bid at the Lakeland Westchester Classic, qualifying them for the Tournament of Champions, and Zeng was also the first speaker in the varsity division. Junior varsity semi-finalists, sophomores Christina Liu and Davayan Sanyal, also placed seventh and 10th, respectively, in their division.