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Speech and debate teams garner awards in competitions nationwide

The+debate+team+poses+after+one+of+their+competitions.+The+speech+and+debate+teams+has+participated+in+and+won+several+competitions+over+the+past+two+months.
The debate team poses after one of their competitions. The speech and debate teams has participated in and won several competitions over the past two months.

The debate team poses after one of their competitions. The speech and debate teams has participated in and won several competitions over the past two months.

Provided by Michael Achten

Provided by Michael Achten

The debate team poses after one of their competitions. The speech and debate teams has participated in and won several competitions over the past two months.

by Anna Vazhaeparambil, Reporter

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Members of the upper school speech and debate team have participated in several tournaments this past month and will continue to attend more as they prepare for the national tournaments at the end of the season.

The Harvard-Westlake tournament in Los Angeles and the James Logan tournament in Union City both took place on the weekend of Jan. 12 to 14. At Harvard-Westlake, freshman Akshay Manglik was a double octafinalist in Lincoln-Douglas debate, and at James Logan, seniors Jimmy Lin and Justin Xie placed second in public forum and sophomore Tiffany Zhao advanced to the final round of Congressional debate.

Debate coach Greg Achten credits these achievements to the hours of preparation and practice students engage in during classes.

“Debate is in some ways like chess—it’s not just thinking about what you are going to do, but also about what your opponents are going to do and making sure that you are prepared to debate against all the other arguments that you think [they] will make,” Achten said. “So there is lot of research and a lot of preparation that goes into that.”

Senior Megan Huynh, who is a policy captain of the team, notes that although students focus on different skills each day, everything they do is all in preparation for tournaments.

“One day, we might have a one-on-one practice debate or give practice speeches [and] another day, we might discuss what kind of assignments we want to do to prepare for upcoming tournaments,” Megan said. “And another day might just be devoted to doing the research for those assignments.”

Likewise, members of speech and Congressional debate have also worked on their individual skills, whether that be research, memorization or delivery, in order to get ready for the various tournaments this month, which include the Arizona State Invitational in Tempe, Arizona from Jan. 5 to 7 and the Sunvitational in Fort Lauderdale, Florida from Jan. 12 to 14.

In the Arizona State Invitational, sophomore Nakul Bajaj placed in the final round in Congressional debate, and Avi Gulati (10) and Nikhil Dharmaraj (11) were second and fourth, respectively, in oratory. In the Sunvitational, Haris Hosseini (11) won second place in oratory and Nikhil finished fifth. Ashwin Rammohan (11) was also a finalist in Congressional debate.

Speech coach Scott Odekirk emphasizes that although students of all events have been performing really well this season, he himself never thinks about the actual results of a tournament.

“I don’t ever think about competitive outcomes. Now, that’s not because I’m not competitive—I’m very competitive. However, I think outcome-orientation actually prevents success,” Odekirk said. “I like to think about process-oriented goals: I want people to be giving the best version of their speech, I want energy levels to be consistent throughout rounds, I want our body movements to be more consistent. All those things are what we’re working on, and I try not to focus on trophies and winning too much—even though all we do is win.”

Odekirk finishes with a slight smirk, subtly referencing one of the team’s spirit chants: “We can win! We can win! We can, we can, we can win!”

Loud and spirited, the speech team repeats these words over and over before tournaments, members reveling in the sense of unity and comfort that follows the exercise. Smiles adorn faces and hands clap along to the rhythm as voices echo the chant in unison.

Avi Gulati (10) describes such moments with his team as some of the best memories he’ll have during high school.

“Two tournaments ago, before my final round, everyone in speech was wishing me good luck—people woke up at 5:30 in the morning to give me a hug before my round. I just think the speech community has been so supportive, and I’m so proud to be a part of it,” he said.

A shorter version of this piece was originally published in the pages of the Winged Post on February 5, 2018.

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Speech and debate teams garner awards in competitions nationwide