By Jenny Achten
Both the upper and middle school speech and debate teams did incredibly well recently at one of the three major national speech and debate tournaments. The National Speech & Debate Association Tournament was held in Birmingham, Ala., June 18-23. Thousands of students compete at the massive event.
Four upper school students qualified to attend the tournament, and each had impressive results. Aditya Dhar ’17 took home top honors in congressional debate with the senate leadership bowl and a second-place-finish overall. The leadership bowl award is voted on by the debaters, and congressional debate coach Marjorie Hazeltine noted that the whole team was thrilled for Dhar, especially because he has been an incredible team leader and role model throughout his time at the upper school.
Jenny Achten, Harker’s speech and debate department chair, noted Dhar “was seen as a great competitor and also a fair and encouraging presence in the community. It really speaks to how highly he was held as a role model in the Congressional Debate community and within our team.”
Nikhil Dharmaraj, rising junior, made it to the quarterfinals of original oratory with his speech on the importance of quality over quantity. Dharmaraj also made it to the top 20 in impromptu speaking. Avi Gulati, rising sophomore, was close to making it to elimination rounds in oratory and also placed in the top third in impromptu. Rounding out the upper school contingent was Jason Huang, rising junior, who earned a winning record in the relatively new event of world schools debate.
The middle school team also did extremely well in its division, with 157 middle schools from 33 states represented. Harker won the School of Excellence Debate Award, given to the school with the strongest overall record in the debate events across the entire field. Coach Chris Thiele was honored to accept the award on behalf of the whole team.
The duo of Andy Lee and Jason Lin, both rising freshmen, won first place in policy debate on a 5-0 decision, as they successfully argued that the United States ought to increase its diplomatic engagement with the People’s Republic of China, particularly in the area of joint space exploration. Deven Shah, rising eighth grader, and Akshay Manglik, rising freshman, made it to the semifinals of policy debate. In Lincoln-Douglas debate, Rishi Jain, rising eighth grader, was in the semifinals and Akhilesh Chegu, also a rising eighth grader, was in the octofinals.
Harker’s grade 7 public forum teams also had impressive finishes, debating humanitarian assistance and antiterrorism efforts in East Africa. Anshul Reddy and Ayan Nath were semifinalists, Alina Yuan and Amiee Wang made it to octofinals, and Arnav Jain and Harsh Deep, along with Yejin Song and Alysa Su, were double octofinalists. All are rising eighth graders.
Arusha Patil, rising freshman, was a semifinalist in both original oratory and storytelling. Rhea Nanavati, rising fresman, was a quarterfinalist in dramatic interpretation of literature.
The coaches are very proud of all of the students’ accomplishments and send a special thanks to Class of 2017 graduates Sana Aladin, Molly Wancewicz and Anika Jain for joining the coaching staff for this exciting event.