This article originally appeared in the summer 2016 Harker Quarterly.
By Greg Achten and Jenny Alme
Harker’s speech and debate team finished the 2015-16 season strong, with many students earning national honors and awards. The end-of-the-year championship tournaments were a capstone to another great season in which Harker students competed against the best and brightest students nationwide. The success of our students at those tournaments is a testament to their hard work and all that they have learned this year.
Upper School Team Success
Harker’s upper school speech and debate team attended several end-of-year championship tournaments. Qualifying for these tournaments was a great honor, resulting from top performances throughout the year. Twelve Harker students competed at the National Debate Coaches Association National Championship in Orlando, Fla. At the tournament, Raymond Xu and Srivatsav Pyda, both juniors, advanced to the elimination rounds in Lincoln-Douglas Debate. Xu lost in the first elimination and finished 17th in the nation, while Pyda reached the quarterfinals and finished fifth in the nation. Several Harker debate students also qualified to the Tournament of Champions, held in Lexington, Ky. Pyda was joined by teammates Aditya Dhar, grade 11, and Michael Tseitlin, grade 11, as well as Alexander Lam, grade 11, in congressional debate; Joyce Huang, grade 11, Emily Chen, grade 10, and Jimmy Lin, grade 10, in international public forum debate; and Emaad Raghib, grade 11, and Suraj Jagadeesh, grade 12, in public forum. At the tournament, Lam and Huang entered the elimination rounds as the top overall seed. They were joined in the elimination rounds by Chen and Lin.
Both teams reached the octofinal round of the tournament, finishing in the top 20 in the nation. In congressional debate, both Dhar and Tseitlin advanced to the semifinals. Dhar also qualified for the National Catholic Forensics League National Tournament in Sacramento, where he reached the final round of the tournament and finished fifth overall in the nation. In speech competitions, three Harker students qualified for the National Individual Events Tournament of Champions in Denver. Sana Aladin and Divya Rajasekharan, both grade 11, qualified to the tournament in duo interpretation of literature, and Nikhil Dharmaraj, grade 9, qualified in original oratory. Dharmaraj advanced to the final round of the tournament and finished fourth overall out of more than 140 students! Dharmaraj is the first Harker student to reach the final round of this prestigious tournament. He also qualified to the National Speech & Debate Association’s National Tournament in Salt Lake City, which will take place in mid-June.
Young Debaters Winning Big
One of the bright spots of the season was the success of grade 9 students throughout the year and especially at the end-of-the-year tournaments. Students from Harker’s team earned top honors at several late-season tournaments designed for students in their first or second year of competition.
The St. Mark’s School of Texas in Dallas holds a championship tournament in May for grade 9 and younger debaters. At that tournament Anusha Kuppahally, grade 9, and Maddie Huynh, grade 8, reached the semifinals and finished third overall. Both Kuppahally and Huynh also won individual speaker awards. At the Western JV & Novice National Championship at San Francisco State University, three Harker students were crowned national champions in their respective events. In second year public forum, Cindy Wang and Clarissa Wang, both grade 9, lost only one ballot on their way to winning the tournament. In novice Lincoln-Douglas debate, Kelly Shen, grade 9, also won the final round of her division and was named a national champion.
Many other Harker students also won awards at the Western tournament. In policy debate, Esha Deokar, grade 9, and Deven Shah, grade 6, reached the semifinals of the novice division and finished third in the nation. Meghna Phalke and Alycia Cary, both grade 9, reached the octofinal round of novice policy, finishing ninth in the nation.
Kuppahally and Jacob Ohana, grade 10, finished ninth in the second year policy debate division. In novice public forum, Raymond Banke, grade 9, Floyd Gordon, grade 10, Aimee Wang, grade 6, and Alina Yuan, grade 6, finished in the top 20 in the nation, while Sascha Pakravan, grade 6, and Anshul Reddy, grade 6, were in the quarterfinals of the tournament and finished fifth overall. In second year public forum, Betsy Tian, grade 7, and Shomrick Mondal, grade 8, finished the tournament in the top 10 in the country.
In novice Lincoln-Douglas debate, Karoun Kaushik, grade 6, and Aditya Tadimeti, grade 7, reached elimination rounds and finished in the top 20 overall. Also in novice Lincoln-Douglas, Rishi Jain, grade 6, reached the quarterfinals. In second year Lincoln-Douglas, Cat Zhao, grade 8, Avi Gulati, grade 8, Satvik Narasimhan, grade 9, Nishant Ravi, grade 9, and Suraj Pakala, grade 9, all reached the elimination rounds and finished in the top 20. Annie Ma, grade 8, and Neha Tallapragada, grade 9, both reached the quarterfinals and finished in the top eight in nation. Given the success of these young students, the future of the program is indeed very bright.
Middle School Team Success Harker’s middle school team recently attended the California Middle School State tournament at Skyline High School in Oakland, and many of our students won awards! In impromptu speaking Bryan Wang, grade 8, reached the finals and was crowned state champion. Avi Gulati also reached the finals of impromptu. In storytelling Gulati, Katelyn Chen, grade 8, Arusha Patil, grade 7, and Rhea Nanavati, grade 7, all were finalists.
In prose Nikki Solanki, grade 8, was a finalist. In oratory Gulati and Patil were finalists. In duo interpretation of literature, Chen and Wang were finalists. In dramatic interpretation Solanki was a finalist. In public forum debate the teams of Amanda Cheung, grade 8, and Jason Pan, grade 8, as well as Krishay Mukhija, grade 7, and Anshul Reddy were quarterfinalists.
Also in public forum, the team of Kenneth Liou, grade 8, and Jeremy Ding, grade 8, as well as Zain Awais, grade 7, and Chandan Aggarwal, grade 8, reached the octofinals and finished in the top 20, while the team of Datha Arramreddy, grade 8, and Vibha Arramreddy, grade 8, were double octofinalists. In Lincoln-Douglas Annie Ma and Cat Zhao reached the quarterfinals. Aditya Tadimeti was an octofinalist.
The following students reached the double octofinals in Lincoln Douglas: Sachin Shah, grade 8, Aditi Vinod, grade 7, Akhilesh Chegu, grade 6, and Montek Kalsi, grade 8. In congressional debate Nakul Bajaj, grade 8, and Andrew Sun, grade 7, were finalists.
The middle school team also attended the Glendale Middle School Championships. In policy debate Andy Lee and Jason Lin, both grade 7, were the tournament champions. The teams of Quentin Clark, grade 8, and Shah, as well as Jai Bahri, grade 8, and Deven Parikh, grade 7, were semifinalists.
In Lincoln-Douglas debate, the team swept the tournament, claiming all of the top seven spots with the following students being named co-champions: Shah, Akshay Manglik, grade 7, Tadimeti, Kalsi, Ma, Chegu and Zhao. In public forum Reddy and Mukhija were octofinalists and the teams of Liou and Ding as well as Cheung and Pan reached the quarterfinals.
In congressional debate Sun, Bajaj, and Reiya Das, grade 8, all finished in the top eight at the tournament.
The following students reached the final round of speech competition: Aaditya Gulati, grade 6; Shyl Lamba, grade 8; Annamma Vazhaeparambil, grade 7; Wang and Chen. Patil won the oratory competition while Avi Gulati finished first overall in impromptu speaking and storytelling and Solanki was named tournament champion in both prose and dramatic interpretation.
Karina Momary, head coach of the Harker middle school team, credits the success of the program to the work of the students. “This group of students has certainly worked hard individually, but more importantly has worked collectively as a team to support each other. Our success this year is a direct result of our students working with and for each other,” she said. The middle school team next heads to the National Junior Forensics League National Championship Tournament in Salt Lake City in mid-June.
Welcoming a New Coach
In fall, Marjorie Hazeltine will transition from the middle school to the upper school to become the head coach of the Harker speech and congressional debate teams. Hazeltine had previously worked with the Harker middle school team, in addition to teaching English classes. She joins returning upper school coaches Jenny Alme and Greg Achten. Department chair Alme noted, “The upper school students and coaches are thrilled to have Ms. Hazeltine join us. She is very talented and has a great track record of success as a coach.”