The Paly Voice

Speech and Debate tournament recaps: CFL and MLK

Micaela Wong, Managing Editor

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Paly varsity debater, junior Ethan Nissim, reflects on the January and February Lincoln Douglas debate topic which is plea bargaining. This the next topic, which is not yet released, will be the topic that Nissim and others debate in the state qualifier and the state tournament, the latter being is Nissim's season goal. "Even just showing up there would be great," Nissim said.

Palo Alto High School varsity debater, junior Ethan Nissim, reflects on his goal for the season of making the state tournament. Although Nissim reached state qualifiers last year, he fell short of making it to States. “Even just showing up there would be great,” Nissim said. Photo: Micaela Wong

Following a competitive showing at the California Forensic League tournament and the 2018 James Logan MLK Invitational prior, the Palo Alto Speech and Debate team is looking forward to more competitions, including state qualifiers in mid March. 

At the CFL tournament this past weekend, three Lincoln-Douglas debaters, junior Josh Singh and sophomores Neil Kapoor and Kai Vetteth clinched their spots at state qualifiers by getting a wildcard. Singh, Kapoor and Vetteth gained the wildcards by being undefeated after four rounds of debate. 

Fellow varsity debater Ethan Nissim, who had guaranteed his spot at state qualifiers through a previous CFL tournament, said the wildcards were “good” for the team, especially for the two sophomores Kapoor and Vetteth who had skillfully earned their spots.

“There were a lot of [Paly] sophomores at state qualifiers last year, but not all of us necessarily got the … wildcard and earned our spot there,” Nissim said. “It’s good to see that the sophomores this year have really stepped up and are able to claim a spot there for themselves with their skills.”

According to Nissim, the next goal is to perform well in state qualifiers and advance to the state tournament.

“You want to get to States, you want to debate on another level,” Nissim said.

The Speech team did not fair as well at CFL, with only two speakers, senior Stephanie Lee and junior Sufi Kaur, each placing 8th in their respective events.

The weekend prior to the CFL contest, both Speech and Debate teams had performed nicely at Martin Luther King tournament, with all seven varsity Lincoln-Douglas debaters in attendance making it to the elimination rounds. Juniors Nisha McNealis and Ashley Hitchings progressed the furthest with McNealis reaching quarterfinals (top 8) and Hitchings the octofinals (top 16) out of 127 contestants.

In the Speech contest, junior Evan Baldonado made semifinals in the Impromptu event. Also, senior Stephanie Lee and sophomore Isabel Armstrong reached the semifinals in the Duo Interpretation event.

According to Lee, her success with Armstrong in the Duo Interpretation event was not expected. The pair performed a piece called “Stop Kiss” by Diana Son, a story revolving around a lesbian couple who faces violence and victim blaming. Although the partnership formed shortly after Thanksgiving last year, the memorization and blocking of their piece did not happen until the week before the tournament.

“We met up again [after winter break] and we were just like ‘ok we are going to get this done,’” Lee said.

With the last minute preparation, a few blotched lines in the competition, and a field of talented Duo partnerships, Lee said she and Armstrong had dismissed the thought of advancing past the preliminary round. However, the judges did not share Lee and Armstrong’s views and placed the duo as the second seed after the preliminary round.

“It was really surprising [to advance] because MLK is one of the biggest duo tournaments in the nation, we have people coming from a lot of different places,” Lee said.

Next on the horizon, the pair hopes reach state and national qualifiers.

“I’m crossing like every single bone in my body that we will do well,” Lee said.

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