Paly debater wins out-of-state tournament

Emma van der Veen and William Sallomi

Palo Alto High School junior debater Frances Zhuang poses in front of the Media Arts Center on Tuesday. Photo: Emma van der Veen.
Palo Alto High School junior debater Frances Zhuang poses in front of the Media Arts Center on Tuesday. Zhuang placed first at a debate tournament at the University of Puget Sound this weekend. Photo: Emma van der Veen.

Palo Alto High School Speech and Debate team member junior Frances Zhuang placed first in the Lincoln-Douglas Open Division at the 83rd Annual Puget Sound High School Tournament this weekend in Tacoma, Washington.

Zhuang, a third-year debater, says that her exemplary performance was a result of team support, individual preparation and practice in speaking and thinking on the spot.

“This [tournament] was definitely one of my personal bests,” Zhuang said. “My teammates all competed there and the way we worked together to help each other out was unbelievable. This put me in great spirits and contributed to my in-round confidence and poise.”

Zhuang  argued on the topic of freedom of speech on college campus.

“I did a lot more research about the topic this time and I found a bunch of really good arguments in favor of restricting certain kinds of free speech that people weren’t expecting, and a lot of reasons why hate speech codes are good,” Zhuang said. “The skills I acquired from the last few years of debate helped me become a faster speaker and a more flexible thinker.”

Junior debater Barry He and senior debater Colin Fee finished as quarterfinalists in the tournament, according to club president senior Ethan Teo. Teo says Paly was additionally awarded four “speaker awards,” presented to debaters with high average points given for quality of debate strategy and speaking skills in the preliminary rounds of the competition. Paly was awarded 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th places for Zhuang, He, Teo and Fee, respectively.

According to Teo, the Vikings’ performance this weekend was well-deserved.

“Our team did a phenomenal job this weekend, but I definitely saw it coming,” Teo said. “Frances, Barry and Colin have worked extremely hard on debate, especially this past year, so it’s really great to see them perform well at tournaments.”

The tournament in Tacoma this weekend is a step towards the Tournament of Champions, the “World Cup” of high school debate, according to Zhuang. Zhuang received a bid for the Tournament of Champions because of her performance at this weekend’s competition, placing her halfway to being able to attend the TOC, just like teammates Fee and He.

“I got what we call a ‘bid to the TOC’ at UPS [University of Puget Sound tournament],” Zhuang said. “The TOC is the ultimate debate tournament where the best debaters in the country get to compete, and a bid means you’re halfway there. Debaters usually need two bids to qualify. Looking forward, my goals are to get another bid to the TOC, to get better at a wider variety of arguments, and to do well at future tournaments.”

According to Teo, the team will compete next weekend in Los Angeles on its next step towards the TOC.