Varsity debate excels at state championships

Multiple debaters advance into elimination rounds, win distinctions

Teddy+Kamin%2C+Will+Naviaux%2C+Max+Rosen%2C+Ben+Newcomb%2C+and+Frank+Zawrazky+feeling+confident+after+state+%7C+Debate+
Teddy Kamin, Will Naviaux, Max Rosen, Ben Newcomb, and Frank Zawrazky feeling confident after state | Debate

Teddy Kamin, Will Naviaux, Max Rosen, Ben Newcomb, and Frank Zawrazky feeling confident after state | Debate

Teddy Kamin, Will Naviaux, Max Rosen, Ben Newcomb, and Frank Zawrazky feeling confident after state | Debate

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While much of New Trierʼs student body was celebrating St. Patrickʼs Day on Saturday, Mar. 17, the New Trier Speech and Debate team was competing against Illinoisʼ best debaters at the IHSA Varsity State Championship in Springfield, Illinois.

New Trierʼs team competed across all four categories of debate: Policy, Congressional, Public Forum, and Lincoln-Douglas. They had many top performances across these categories.

Of the policy debaters, juniors Hannah Kadin and Josie Ewing placed in the Final Four of the semifinals before being eliminated 2 – 1, while juniors Jack Altman and Roland Kim advanced to the Elite Eight and also finished on a 2–1.

This year, the policy debate topic was whether the United States government should increase funding and/or regulations for public education.

In Congressional Debate, sophomore Max Rosen came in 7th place, while junior Will Thornton advanced to the Sweet 16 octofinals for Lincoln-Douglas debate, earning 9th place. Thornton was also named to the Illinois All-State Debate Team for Lincoln-Douglas, as did Ewing for Policy.

While the debaters had high hopes going into the tournament, they definitely felt the intensity of the competition they would be facing.

“The atmosphere at the state tournament was super exciting and competitive because everyone there has put in a lot of preparation and looked to perform as well as possible,” said Kadin.

Kim agreed that there was a mix of both excitement and anxiety as the debaters braced themselves to compete.

“The tourney was pretty tense, just because so many schools across the state take this tournament very seriously and prepare with everything they have.”

“At the same time, it was also fun because of all the time you had to talk to friends from other schools and hang out when not debating,” added Kin.

Despite the high level of competition from teams such as Glenbrook or Niles, New Trierʼs debate program prepared their debaters with a combination of hard training and strong effort from both the debaters and the coaches.

“New Trier Debate helped us prepare for the tournament by discussing common arguments made on both sides regarding education policy and how to make those arguments clear and concise to a judge whoʼs evaluating the round,” said Kim.

Speech and Debate teacher Aaron Vinson noted that not only were the debatersʼ preparation the culmination of a lot of effort, it was also well thought-out and emphasized strategy and smart arguments.

“In Lincoln-Douglas and Public Forum, itʼs a little bit different from other events because the topics change frequently, so a lot of what we work on is teaching [the debaters] the process of making a quality argument that can apply to every topic,” said Vinson. “We talk about how to research, how to write arguments, responding to arguments, good questions to ask their opponents — itʼs very skill-focused.”

Kadin reflected the level of preparedness that the debaters had achieved simply through preparing for other tournaments and, like Kim, examining specific arguments. “We have been prepping for various tournaments throughout the season on the national circuit that were just as or even more competitive than state, so we felt very ready to compete overall,” said Kadin. “Over the past couple weeks, we began to look at the arguments specific teams going to Illinois State read and prepared for them, as well as have practice debates after school.”

What makes New Trierʼs performance even more notable at this state championship was the number of debaters who placed that were not seniors, as they typically are.

“[At] a tournament like the state championship, thatʼs a tournament that usually only seniors are doing really well at. For us to have a strong showing by a lot of our underclassmen demonstrates that weʼre basically a threat to win any tournament,” said Speech and Debate teacher David Weston.

The state championship is nowhere near the end of the debatersʼ goals, as the infamous Tournament of Champions looms in the near future, which many debaters hope to attend and excel at.

“My biggest goal for the season was to qualify for the Tournament of Champions at the end of the year,” explained Kadin. “We hear back about whether or not we will be able to compete at the end of this month. On top of that, my goals are to just continue working hard and doing prep so that next season goes even better.”

No matter what awards and accolades the New Trier debaters garner, though, the most important part of the debate program for the Speech and Debate teachers is whether or not the debaters truly enjoy their experience and learn something from it.

“One of the core beliefs of our debate program is that we want students to access debate in a way that fits their interest. For some students, they want to be top competitors in the country. Other students want to dabble a little bit in debate because itʼs academically fun and challenging,” said Weston. “Our goals are to help kids achieve their goals.”

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