Five Palo Alto High School debaters are preparing for the upcoming California Debate State Championship after succeeding in State Qualifiers at Santa Clara University last weekend.
The Paly Speech and Debate Team team sent 17 debaters to State Qualifiers, but only three will compete in April while two are placed as alternates. Senior Eric Foster and junior Madhumita Gupta prevailed against nearly 90 competitors in the Lincoln-Douglas debate and sophomore Sarah Youngquist qualified as an alternate. Freshman Dominic Thibault qualified in Congressional debate with senior Ariya Momeny as an alternate.
According to Jennie Savage, head coach for Paly Speech and Debate, Thibault and Momeny are the first Paly students to qualify in Student Congress. While Paly has sent at least one Lincoln-Douglas debater to State Championships nine times in twelve years, this is the first time that any student will move up to the Congressional State Championships.
According to Debate Co-President Jenny Xin, this year marked one of Paly’s strongest showings at State Qualifiers, with sophomore Jaiveer Sandhu as top overall speaker, Youngquist as sixth and Foster as seventh. Gupta was second in terms of speaking and ballots.
Foster and Gupta competed in five preliminary Lincoln-Douglas rounds and several elimination rounds, according to Xin.
“Eric [Foster] and Madhu [Gupta] worked extremely hard, and they’re both incredible
debaters and speakers,” Xin said. “I was lucky enough to see a few of their rounds, and they were just incredible in every aspect of the debate, from pointing out flaws in their opponents’ arguments and evidence and defending their own with grace and clarity.”
In addition to four-hour debate meetings on Tuesdays, Gupta, Foster and Thibault are practicing extra rounds through Skype in preparation for April’s State Championship in hopes of continuing to the National Championships.
“Madhu [Gupta] and I qualified in large measure due to all the practice and support we had from our teammates, experience
at other debate tournaments, support from the Paly debate coaches and the leadership and encouragement of Paly Speech and Debate director Jennie Savage,” Foster said. “I’m looking forward to representing our team, our school and our league at the State Championships and hope that the hard work it took to get here pays off in April.”
Debaters who are not preparing for State Championships are still actively practicing for other competitions. A second Santa Clara Invitational is approaching in April.
Paly Speech participated in its annual Speech State Qualifiers on Feb. 27, but did not qualify any students for the championships. However, freshman David Foster moved up to compete in Humorous Interpretation finals on Sunday at Santa Clara University.
“We’re wrapping up the season,” Xin said. “It’s been an incredible success so far, and the hard work, dedication and team support that’s evident both in practice and in competition has been amazing.”