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Thirteen Speech and Debate members compete in national tournament

Top image: Members of the Speech and Debate team pose in front of a banner at the Ketucky LEX airport that reads University of Kentucky, the venue of the Tournament of Champions national tournament. (Left to Right, Front to Back: Rebecca Cai, Rucha Kore, Nina Pan, Vansh Mathur, Aadharsh Rajkumar, Anish Bhethanabotla, Rohan Patel, Sagar Bhatia, Michael Harris, Aadi Loonawat, Vihaan Patel, Om Modi, Bolang Zhu, Rohin Saharoy) bottom image: Members of the Public Forum debate team pose in front of the Funkhouser building at the Univesity of Kentucky (Left to Right, Front to Back: Nina Pan, Rohan Patel, Anish Bethanabotla, Aadharsh Rajkumar, Aadi Loonawat, Vihaan Patel, Sagar Bhatia, Rohin Saharoy). Used with permission from Nina Pan.

After a season of competition, 13 Speech and Debate students qualified for and competed in the Tournament of Champions, which is considered the most prestigious high school debate tournament in the United States. The tournament took place in Lexington, Kentucky from April 20-22. This was the largest group of students to ever represent Lynbrook, consisting of seniors Vansh Mathur and Rohan Patel; juniors Aadharsh Rajkumar, Anish Bhethanabotla, Nina Pan and Sagar Bhatia; sophomores Aadi Loonawat, Bolang Zhu, Om Modi, Rebecca Cai and Vihaan Patel and freshman Rohin Saharoy and Rucha Kore. 

After a weekend of competition, senior and captain of the speech team Mathur placed first overall in Original Oratory. In Speaker Awards of the gold Public Forum category, out of 234 debaters, Rajkumar placed 37th and Pan, captain of the debate team, placed 38th. 

“TOC is definitely a step up from other tournaments; most debaters spend their entire seasons trying to qualify to attend,” Rajkumar said. “And with that in mind, I think my partner, Nina, and I did pretty well in our event. We both placed in the top 40, so that is something to be proud of.”

Lynbrook Speech and Debate often competes at regional and national levels. In speech events, students are judged on a presentation, which can either be a speech written by the student before or during the event, or a performance of a published material. In debate events, students, individually or in teams, work to convince a judge to favor their side of an argument or resolution. Lynbrook students compete in multiple different speech and debate events, including Dramatic Interpretation, Impromptu Speech, Public Forum and Lincoln-Douglas. 

“Public Forum gives you a way to think and understand real world problems. It helps you connect in teams, because you can play with your strengths and weaknesses,” Pan said. “My partner and I can build off of each other and create a flow that gets better throughout the entire season.”

To compete at TOC, competitors must receive two bids from tournaments throughout the regular season. For example, advancing to the finals or achieving top two status at a finals bid tournament would earn the team or student a bid; in a similar fashion, becoming semifinalist at a semifinal bid tournament would also grant the team or student a bid. Depending on the tournament, bids could be given to a range of octofinalists to finalists. 

The two biggest regular season tournaments to receive bids are Stanford Invitational and California Invitational UC Berkeley. At Stanford this year, Mathur placed first in Original Oratory, receiving a bid, and 5th in Dramatic Interpretation. At Berkeley, he placed second in Original Oratory, receiving his second bid to qualify for TOC. Overall, he is proud of the speech team for their efforts.

“I think we’re really doing a great job at having a speech comeback,” Mathur said. “A lot of the speech and debate programs around the nation got much smaller during the pandemic, just because it was so difficult to sustain a team environment through distance learning. Last year we pretty much had three students in speech. But this year, we’re in the 20s, and we’re already sending three people to TOC.”

At TOC, the competitors learned a lot, not just from their experience, but also from other debaters. 

“I got to watch a lot of high level rounds. There are a lot of top debaters in the nation at this tournament, people who I’ve only seen on YouTube before,” Rajkumar said. “I got to meet them all for the first time. We learned about how they approach debate technically, and how they talk, and saw their skills. Just observing them was probably one of the best learning experiences from the tournament.”

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Claire Guo
Claire Guo, Staffer
(she/her) Claire Guo is a sophomore and first-year staffer in the Epic. She loves reading, writing, creating, and petting her dog.

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