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The Paly Voice

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Debate team wins Stanford Invitational

Junior Kashi Tuteja (left) and sophomore Amily Zhang (right) hold up a “W” for their win after finishing the 38th Annual Stanford Invitational online debate as co-champions over the weekend. According to Lincoln-Douglas debate coach Adrian Youngquist (center), the students fully deserved the win for their hard work. “It really showed how hard work pays off when you actually do it,” Youngquist said. (Photo: Amily Zhang)

The Speech and Debate Team of Palo Alto High School is currently ranked #6 out of 241 high school programs in the state after two Vikings won the championship at the 38th Annual Stanford Invitational online debate last weekend.

The tournament, an online national invitational hosted by Stanford University, was held from Feb. 10 through Feb. 12 and consisted of around 80 participants from high schools across the state, according to the National Speech & Debate Association.

During semifinals, sophomore Amily Zhang and junior Kashi Tuteja came out victorious in their respective debates. As they were competing on the same high school team, both Zhang and Tuteja did not have to debate each other in finals, instead becoming co-champions of the overall tournament.

Zhang said that as soon as she learned of the tournament results, she told the debate team and celebrated the win together.

“We [the debate team] were really happy, and I immediately called Kashi [Tuteja],” Zhang said. “We screamed at each other over Discord for a while.”

Despite both being sick throughout the invitational, the pair persevered, which Tuteja said he was most proud of.

“We were both under the weather for the tournament,” Tuteja said. “I was proud of powering through that to get the win, given the circumstances.”

Tuteja said the win is a source of motivation to continue improving and developing his skills.

“There’s a whole bunch of future tournaments coming up this season that are big, like the state and national tournament,” Tuteja said. “I’d like to do well at those — qualify for them even. I’d like to keep improving my skill set, as this was by no means a perfect tournament. I did well, but there’s always points of improvement, and I think my speaking and my argumentation can get even better in the future.”

Kyle Hietala, program director of Paly’s Speech and Debate Team, praised Tuteja’s mindset, saying that an important quality among debate winners is the desire to improve, the ability to take in feedback and criticism, and the motivation to grow.

“Students like Kashi and Amily coming back from closing out a championship tournament and immediately asking for feedback, going into drills and working on improving is why this [championship] happened,” Hietala said. “As long as people keep doing that, focusing on improvement and growth, and being proud of what they’ve accomplished, but hungry to get better and accomplish more, then it [win streaks] just kind of keep going.”

Zhang said she cherishes debate, especially the friends, fun and memories that come with being part of the team.

“I’ve moved around a lot since I was little, and I’ve joined a lot of different clubs and extracurriculars, but debate is the most fun I have ever had in any activity before,” Zhang said. “If I were to list my 10 closest friends right now, probably five or more would be from debate. Debate is genuinely just such a great community.”

Paly’s Speech and Debate Team is competing in its next tournament from Feb. 17 to Feb. 19 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at the Harvard National Speech and Debate Tournament.

Additional reporting by Motoko Iwata.

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About the Contributors
Kristine Lin
Kristine Lin, Managing Editor
Kristine Lin (Class of 2025) joined The Paly Voice her sophomore year. Outside of journalism, she enjoys going on scenic hikes, taking road trips, and traveling to new places.
Joy Tan
Joy Tan, Sports Editor, Multimedia Editor
Joy Tan (class of 2026) joined The Voice in her sophomore year and enjoys playing volleyball and taking photos.

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