Success for Speech and Debate team in Arizona

    Junior Grace Lam demonstrates how she prepares for a Congressional debate tournament which includes extensive research as well as speech planning. According to Lam, the preparation for this tournament took her over 15 hours. "There’s always a lot of preparation that goes into travel tournaments because the stakes are higher," Lam said.

    Palo Alto High School junior Grace Lam demonstrates how she prepares for a Congressional debate tournament which includes extensive research as well as speech planning. Lam traveled to Arizona to compete in the competitive Arizona State University over winter break. According to Lam, the preparation for her event took her over 15 hours. “There’s always a lot of preparation that goes into travel tournaments because the stakes are higher,” Lam said. Photo: Micaela Wong

    After returning from a successful tournament held at Arizona State University from Jan. 4-7, the Palo Alto High School Speech and Debate team prepares for other upcoming contests approaching in the spring semester.

    The team, which specializes in Speech, Lincoln-Douglas Debate, and Congressional Debate, sent eight varsity members to compete at the three-day tournament over winter break. With 160 high schools nationwide attending, the competition was high stakes, with hired judges assessing the speakers alongside the usual parent judges.  Despite the “tough” competition, the team performed “exceptionally well” according to the team’s co-vice president, junior Ashley Hitchings.

    Hitchings was one of the team’s members who competed well in Lincoln-Douglas Debate reaching the octafinals (top 16) out of 136 varsity debaters. Fellow Paly debater, junior Josh Singh, also achieved success, reaching the double octafinals (top 32) in the same discipline. In addition, Congressional Debate captain junior Grace Lam and junior Dominic Thibault reached semifinals in their event, resulting in a strong showing for the team at its first ever appearance at the Arizona-based tournament.   

    Hitchings, whose participation in the event marked her first out-of-state travel tournament, attributes the team’s success to her supportive teammates and coach.  

    “Our Congress team made it to semifinals, and Josh and I both made it to elimination rounds in Lincoln-Douglas debate, in large part thanks to the overwhelming support and assistance we received from our coaches, teammates, and phenomenal program director Jennie Savage,” Hitchings said.

    Calling the experience an “adventure,” Hitchings said the tournament served as a bonding experience as well.

    I think traveling brought our tightly-knit team even closer together,” Hitchings said. “I’ve never seen the same degree of encouragement and collaboration among my teammates in other teams on the circuit, so I count myself lucky to be part of such a supportive community.”

    Lam, who debated over 25 different current event issues such as “cryptocurrency to North Korea” while participating in Congressional Debate said she is “really pleased” her semifinal finish.

    Lam also has other reasons to be pleased. Since helping to start the congressional debate branch of the team three years ago alongside Thibault, and fellow member junior Ujwal Srivastava, the team has grown exponentially, now boasting over 30 members.

    “I’m really excited for the team because there’s [there are] so many talented new debaters as well as really dedicated talented veteran debaters,” Lam said.

    Next on the agenda, the Speech and Debate team will attend the Martin Luther King tournament, the California Forensic League tournament and the Milpitas Invitational tournament, among others, in the months of January and February.

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