Indianapolis – June 18, 2012 – Harker’s middle school speech and debate team capped another strong season last Friday, earning one of only three all-around school of excellence awards at the National Junior Forensic League (NJFL) National Championships in Indianapolis, Ind. This honor recognizes the combined accomplishment of the 26 speakers and debaters from Harker who competed. While this is the first all-around award Harker has earned, the team extended their streak of being recognized as one of the five recipients of the school of excellence in debate award to three consecutive years.
Aditya Dhar, grade 7, improved another of the team’s streaks to three straight years with at least one student earning an individual national championship. Debating topics ranging from abolishing the Electoral College to passing the DREAM Act, Dhar dominated competition in congressional debate. He was joined in the final round of congress by teammate Alexander Lam, grade 7, who earned second place, as well as teammates Sophia Luo, grade 8, and Misha Tseitlin, grade 7.
Harker also enjoyed its best performance to date at nationals in policy debate by advancing all three teams it entered. The team of Steven Cao, grade 7, and Panny Shan, grade 8, advanced to semifinals (top four) before falling to the eventual champions from the Kinkaid School in Texas. Lisa Liu and Sophia Luo, both grade 8, compiled an undefeated record in preliminary competition and proceeded to quarterfinals (top eight) before falling. Joining these others was the team of Shannon Hong, grade 8, and Rahul Shukla, grade 7, who reached octafinals (top 16). This year’s policy topic focused on whether the United States should significantly increase exploration of space.
Numerous public forum debate teams advanced to elimination competition as well. The team of Sorjo Banerjee and Suraj Jagadeesh, both grade 8, advanced to quarterfinals (top eight) while the team of Kevin Chen, grade 8, and Joyce Huang, grade 7, reached octafinals (top 16). In addition to their successes in congress, Dhar and Lam joined forces to reach octafinals (top 16) in public forum. Debaters in this event discussed whether stand your ground laws are a legitimate expansion of self-defense.
The all-around school of excellence award was made possible by a breakthrough for Harker’s forensics program, as the school entered a significant number of students in the speech events for the first time. Though the middle school speech program is new, that did not stop several students from excelling at the tournament. Complementing her award in policy debate, Lisa Liu may have been the hardest working student at the tournament, advancing to semifinals (top 14) in poetry reading and quarterfinals (top 24) in dramatic interpretation of literature. Quarterfinalists in speech (top 24) included Sana Aladin, grade 7, in storytelling; Carissa Chen, grade 7, in original oratory; and Divya Rajasekharan, grade 7, in dramatic interpretation of literature.
Harker’s growing accomplishments at NJFL Nationals have occurred under the leadership of Karina Momary, the director of middle school forensics. This year the school also welcomed new assistant coach Marjorie Hazeltine, who has ably coached the fledgling group of speech competitors. The returning middle school students look forward to continuing their tradition of success next season in preparation for the 2013 NJFL Nationals in Birmingham, Ala.