After a strong start to the season, the Palo Alto High School Speech and Debate team is looking forward to the upcoming Presentation Invitational and Coast Forensic League Superdebate in October.
Paly’s debate team won the 7th Annual Robert Garcia Invitational at Saint Francis High School and placed in the top eight at the Greenhill Fall Classic in Texas, on Sept. 16.
Senior Frances Zhuang received her first bid of the season at Greenhill School in Addison, Texas, indicating she reached a certain point in elimination rounds, where debaters must beat their opponents in order to advance.
“A bid is a hallmark of doing well in debate,” Zhuang said. “I won UPS [Puget Sound High School Tournament] last year and got a bid there. While getting a bid is generally difficult, it can be much more difficult at certain tournaments.”
If Zhuang receives a second bid, she will qualify for the Tournament of Champions in May, a national high school debate tournament on the National Circuit. Widely considered to be the most prestigious and competitive tournament, debaters must apply to compete.
While Zhuang finished strong, she emphasizes how challenging the tournament was.
“It was intense, “ Zhuang said. “Greenhill is known for being one of the hardest, if not the hardest, early opener tournaments of the year. My coaches and I did a lot of work going into it; almost every round was pretty challenging, so there’s a lot less room for error.”
Senior Tanay Krishna also had a victorious weekend, winning the Robert Garcia Invitational at Saint Francis High School, which Paly’s debate team has historically done well at.
“Competition was tight as we were going up against the most talented debaters from all over the Bay [Area],” Krishna said. “[However,] I think after doing this for the last four years, I didn’t really feel that nervous as some others might have.”
Krishna won all five preliminary rounds, allowing him to advance through octafinals, quarterfinals, semi finals, and finals, all of which he won as well. It was the Paly debate team’s first tournament this year, and was attended “only [by] varsity debaters on the team with considerable experience,” Krishna said.
Going forward, Zhuang hopes to continue her success at the Presentation Invitational on Oct. 9.
“I want to use the prep strategy that I had from Greenhill, which is prioritizing coverage,” Zhuang said. “That added flexibility was really helpful for me, and helped me pick up more rounds than I think I otherwise would’ve.”
Krishna also hopes to maintain his victory at the upcoming Coast Forensic League Superdebate on Oct. 22, where Paly’s debate team will be competing against other high schools in the league, such as Bellarmine College Prepatory and Saratoga High School.
“[My] goals include trying to win as many tournaments as possible,” Krishna said. “To prepare, I’ll do more research and do practice debates with my team members.”
For both Zhuang and Krishna, debate is about more than just winning.
“My favorite thing about it [debate] is all the learning that happens while still being incredibly competitive,” Krishna said.
Zhuang echoes his thoughts, including that she is grateful for her team as well.
“Paly’s speech and debate team is amazing in every way, from our collaborative team atmosphere to our camaraderie to our competitive success,” Zhuang said. “We have a couple of nationally ranked competitors, as well as amazing coaches and a phenomenal team director. I actually had a lot of help from [senior] Barry [He] and my coaches for that new position. Definitely couldn’t have done it without them, so [I’m] very grateful for that.”