Ten upper school students attend National Speech and Debate Season opener, win several bids and take second place


Provided by Valerie Li

Sahngwie Yim (10) practices speed reading at the National Speech and Debate opener in Lexington, Kentucky last weekend. Ten upper school students participated in the tournament, with several receiving top awards and bids.

by Sidak Sanghari, Reporter

Upper school debate students received bids and top awards while attending the National Speech and Debate opener in Lexington, Kentucky from Sept. 9 to Sept. 12.

The tournament took place at the University of Kentucky (UKY), where Harker students participated in Lincoln Douglas events, debating the topic of whether “the United States ought to implement a single-payer universal healthcare system.” 

The students who attended were Roshan Amurthur (9), Angelina Antony (9), Kabir Buch (11), Panav Gogte (11), Nyssa Kansal (8), Valerie Li (10), Ananya Pradhan (9), Sofia Shah (9),  Aarush Vailaya (10) and Sahngwie Yim (10), with Lincoln-Douglas and Public Forum debate teacher Greg Achten as chaperone. Of the 10 students who participated, eight advanced to the elimination rounds after six preliminary rounds, with Ananya reaching the final round and ultimately winning second place. 

Harker students received seven out of the nine bids, or qualifying awards, given at the tournament. If a student receives two bids during the debate season, it would allow them to attend the Tournament of Champions, which will occur at UKY in April of next year.

“The Tournament of Champions is the most prestigious national tournament that we attend,” Achten said. “In order to qualify for the Tournament of Champions, students need to earn two bids to the Tournament of Champions, and so all of those students are halfway [to qualifying] after the first tournament, which is pretty incredible.”

The UKY National Speech and Debate opener was the first in-person debate tournament Harker students attended since the COVID-19 pandemic. Ananya enjoyed the opportunity to travel and communicate in person with teammates, connecting with them and other national debate students.

“I had a lot of fun because it was in-person, and it was also just nice spending time with the rest of the team,” Ananya said. “It was also nice meeting people from other schools and people who I had gone to debate camp with over the summer, even though we were opponents at this tournament.”

Students pose with their awards from the UKY debate tournament. Harker received seven bids at the tournament and overall won second place. (Provided by Greg Achten)

Prior to the tournament, students prepared cases in the intermediate Lincoln Douglas Debate class and the Competitive Debate class, both taught by Achten. At the tournament, they practiced arguments by debating each other and practiced speed reading, a crucial element of Lincoln Douglas debating. Along with Achten, several college debate students joined Harker to help coach the high school competitors and prepare their cases.

“Before the tournament, we had a team meeting,” Valerie said. “We talked about strategy, the topic, what we need to do and then before the round, coaches [came] and [we worked] together to figure out strategy for that round what [we] need to do.”

The next debate tournaments that the upper school speech and debate team will attend include the Greenhill School Invitational from Sept. 16 to Sept. 19, the Jack Howe Memorial tournament in Long Beach from Sep. 24 to Sept. 26 and the St. Mark’s Heart of Texas tournament in October.

“I’m excited for the rest of the season,” Ananya said. “I think this tournament is really an indication of what our team is going to do.”