Speech and debate team celebrates recent successes

Phoebe So, Author

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Following recent triumphs at local tournaments, the Palo Alto High School speech and debate team reflects on its performance and hopes to transform the successful streak into a strong season.

Many members of the speech and debate team, varsity and novice alike, enjoyed success at the University of the Pacific Invitational from Oct. 24 to 27 and the Coast Forensic League 2 Tournament at Milpitas High School on Nov. 10.

At the UoP Invitational, multiple debaters and speechies “broke,” or made it into elimination rounds. In the novice Lincoln-Douglas division, sophomore Minyoung Kim reached semifinals and sophomores Anna Caklovic and Jenny Xin reached quarterfinals. Additionally, varsity debaters senior Kevin Zhang and junior Jaisel Sandhu broke to octafinals in Public Forum debate. In the speech events, junior Hannah Zhang finalled in novice Original Advocacy and sophomore Helen Yan reached semifinals in novice Impromptu.

Yan’s performance at UoP was a major accomplishment for her. Originally competing in only varsity debate, Yan decided to compete in speech just for this tournament. However, following her success at UoP, she now hopes to continue competing in speech, Yan said.

“This was a major accomplishment as this tournament is an invitational, and since there are so many people it’s a pretty hard tournament,” Yan said. “Clearing in Impromptu speech was … a surprise for me because I was not expecting it. Originally, speech was going to be a one time thing for me, but after this tournament I decided to carry on with Impromptu and see if I can take my skills further.”

Additionally, at CFL 2, novice freshman debater Chirag Akella won all four of his rounds in Junior Varsity LD Debate, becoming one of three debaters to go 4-0 at the tournament.

CFL 2 proved to be a milestone for Akella, and his 4-0 came as a surprise to him.

“Because this was my first tournament, I was just trying to gain some experience and enjoy it,” Akella said. “This was a huge accomplishment for me. I wasn’t expecting to go 4-0 at all.”

Yan and Akella credit their coaches with helping them prepare for their respective tournaments and for contributing to their success.

“My coaches, Jennie Savage, Matt Delatuer, Alex Carter and Elana Leone have helped me get to this point by individually criticizing my cases, as well as helping me with drills and commenting on every little aspect of my debating skills, which helped me refine them before the tournament,” Yan said.

Akella additionally cites his participation in the debate program at Jordan Middle School as a source of his success.

“Because I was part of the debate club at Jordan … I already knew how a debate round worked and was already prepared,” Akella said.

Both Yan and Akella have high hopes for the rest of the season.

“For the rest of the season, I hope to improve a little at every tournament, whether it’s in the actual winning record, my speaking skills or another skill,” Yan said.

The next debate tournament will be the Silver and Black Invitational from Dec. 5 to 7 at Alta High School in Salt Lake City, Utah.