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Debate finds success at Cal-Berkeley tournament

Policy debaters gains spot at Tournament of Champions after Cal-Berkeley debates

Da Hee Kim

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On the weekend of Friday, Feb. 18 to Sunday, Feb. 20, the collaborative effort of New Trier Speech & Debate team led to a successful tournament at the annual Cal Invitational at University of California-Berkeley, with one Policy Debate team gaining a bid to the Tournament of Champions.

The Cal Invitational is a tournament on the National Circuit that hosts schools from all around the nation, making the invitational one of the more competitive tournaments that New Trier attends.

The Varsity Policy division was met with a host of high-performing Trevian debaters, including nationally ranked seniors Connor Warshauer and Celia Buckman, who swept their first seven rounds and advanced to the Octofinals.

The four main debate events – Congressional, Policy, Lincoln-Douglas, and Public Forum – are present at the invitational, all of them having a large pool of competitors, according to Buckman.

“In policy, there are over 200 teams, coming from all around the country to compete,” said Buckman. “The size makes it a really competitive tournament.”

Buckman and Warshauer were also one of 16 teams to receive a full bid to the Tournament of Champions, an annual high school speech and debate National Championship tournament hosted at the University of Kentucky in April.

Those who have a certain amount of bids are eligible to attend, of which Buckman and Warshauer have eight.

New Trier’s success in VCX continued with the policy debate team of sophomore Roland Kim and senior Jack Scullion, who went 4-2 in the preliminary rounds.

The duo was followed by the pairs of sophomore Bennett Blake and junior Jack Brown, sophomore Hannah Kadin and junior Marcus Nordenstahl, and juniors Natalie Ye and Charlie Hansell, who were all 3-3 in the prelims.

Ye appreciated being able to debate less common topics, as Policy debate typically involves arguing resolutions for policy changes within the U.S. government.

“My favorite part about this tournament was debating people who read different arguments,” said Ye. “It was refreshing debating arguments about philosophy rather than just relations between the US and China.”

Like their Policy teammates, the Varsity Lincoln-Douglas debaters displayed exceptional performances, as well. Senior Caroline Martin went 4-2 in the prelims before advancing to the triples round, where Harvard-Westlake gained an edge.

Martin, who was the Open LD champion at last month’s Dead Presidents Invitational, believes  that the school’s Lincoln-Douglas debaters have strong communication skills. “The Lincoln-Douglas team does a good job with communicating with our coaches and collaborating with other students,” said Martin.

“However, it depends on the student and the type of debate.”

Sophomore Lincoln-Douglas  debater William Thornton shared a similar view on the cohesiveness of the group.

“Lincoln-Douglas is very good,” said Thornton, “and everyone on the New Trier team has experience.”

Behind Martin, there were many New Trier Lincoln-Douglas debaters with a 2-4 record in the prelims. Along with Thornton, sophomores Caity Kacena and Patrick Tolan and senior Adam Peterson competed.

Like Ye, Tolan enjoyed many factors of his experience competing at the UC Berkeley campus.

“This is definitely a more fun and absolutely more difficult tournament than the local tournaments,” said Tolan. “It felt competitive, but it was in no way stressful.”

The Trevians also had three debaters in the Congressional division – sophomore Will Naviaux, junior Michael Kolovos, and senior Amber Malik – who were all within the 70-80 point range.  The Public Forum divisions had no New Trier teams competing.

With the wide range of events and competitors, Speech & Debate coach David Weston explained that the competition at this invitational was noticeably top-tier.

“The tournament is able to host a large number of students in a large number of events,” said Weston.

“They draw some of the top competitors from across the country – we debated teams from Washington, D.C. to Minnesota.”

While New Trier competes at a variety of national tournaments like Cal, the debate team has experienced consistent performances no matter the type of event or tournament. These can be attributed to the team’s chemistry and work ethic, according to the debaters and coaches.

“A lot of the relationships are based on mentorship – our seniors make sure that the juniors and sophomores are building up the skills they need,” said Weston. “Our sophomores and juniors will stick around after school, so that the freshmen are working with kids who understand a little more about debate.”

On top of witnessing how well the students work together, Speech & Debate coach Aaron Vinson has seen how hard they work to achieve success.

“They have to research and write their own arguments, and they know that their performance is directly related to the work they put in,” explained Vinson.

The debate team’s immense work pays off in their results – teams like Buckman and Warshauer are currently ranked fifth in the national coaches’ poll, and senior Congressional debater Lily Warner placed third of 155 competitors at this year’s Barkley Forum at Emory University, in addition to having four TOC bids.

New Trier’s next tournament is the ICTA JV Novice State Tournament and the Illinois Debate Coaches’ Association JV Novice State Championship, from Friday, Mar. 10 to Sunday, Mar. 12.

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The student news site of New Trier High School.
Debate finds success at Cal-Berkeley tournament