The Harker Forensics team had a record-setting weekend at the National Debate Coaches Association Championship at Weber State University April 11-14. The speech and debate team won national championships in three out of the four events at the tournament! Eight students went home with titles in three categories: Lincoln-Douglas, Public Forum and Congress. Pranav Reddy, grade 11, won first place in Lincoln-Douglas debate; Misha Tseitlin, grade 9, placed first in Congressional debate; and Jasmine Liu, grade 10, and Kevin Duraiswamy, Arjun Kumar, Stephanie Lu, Sreyas Misra, and Sebi Nakos, all grade 12, were co-champions in Public Forum debate.
“We’ve had different parts of the program win a title before, but we’ve never had this much overall strength all at once,” said Jenny Heidt, debate coach.
Nakos added, “I don’t think it was as much of an individual effort as much as it was a team effort. As a team everyone put in their part and did their part and everyone put the work they needed to do well as a team.”
More than 300 students from states throughout the nation participated in the tournament. Harker sent 26 upper school students to compete. To qualify for the national tournament, students had to do well at various debate tournaments throughout the invitational season.
Debaters grapple with very complicated issues of public policy and philosophy. The Public Forum and Lincoln-Douglas topics were about potential conflicts between economic development and environmental protection in poorer nations. The Congressional debaters covered a wide range of issues, including assistance to the Ukraine in maintaining its independence from Russia and whether or not various groups or nations ought to be removed from the U.S. State Department list of terrorist organizations. Coach Greg Achten said, “It is not possible to achieve the level of success in an activity as challenging as debate without a tremendous amount of hard work. Succeeding in debate not only requires incredible intellectual acumen, it also requires a very strong work ethic.”
This year’s debate team set a new precedent for the future success of the school’s speech and debate program. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that it’s the single most successful weekend in the history of Harker speech and debate,” Heidt said. Coach Carol Green summed it up nicely by saying, "We are really proud of all of the students and the work they have done in addition to the successes they achieved."
The team has several more important tournaments coming up at the end of the 2013-2014 season, including travel to Kentucky, Illinois, Kansas and Texas.