Middle School, Upper School

Fall speech and debate season off to a strong start

This story was submitted by speech and debate department chair Jenny Achten

The Harker speech and debate team’s year is off to a strong start. Students have attended tournaments as far away as Dallas and Des Moines, as well as several local events. Across the board, students in Lincoln-Douglas debate, speech, public forum debate and congressional debate have done very well. 

The Lincoln-Douglas team has had a fantastic set of tournaments, debating whether or not the federal government ought to guarantee a right to housing and the extraction of fossil fuels on federal lands. They started with the Season Opener at the University of Kentucky where juniors Valerie Li and Sahngwie Yim, sophomores Ananya Pradhan and Angelina Antony, and freshmen Siddhartha Daswani, Nikhil Bawa and Sanjith Senthil advanced to elimination rounds.

Next, seniors Ansh Sheth and Panav Gogte were invited to the Greenhill Round Robin in Dallas, where the top 14 debaters in the country faced off. Sheth was the first place speaker and finished second overall. He then went on to win first place at the Greenhill Invitational.

Senior Panav Gogte and sophomores Sofia Shah and Roshan Amurthur also won awards at Greenhill. Harker was also honored to have three 10th graders (Sofia Shah, Angelina Antony, and Roshan Amurthur) invited to compete in a sophomore round robin to be among the top 10 10th graders in the nation, hosted by Valley High School in Des Moines, Iowa. Shah and Amurthur closed out the final round and were declared co-champions. Nikhil Bawa, grade 9, then joined Shah and Amurthur in elimination rounds of the Valley Invitational.

The following weekend, Harker competed at Presentation High School in San Jose, where seniors Kabir Buch and Panav Gogte, as well as freshman Siddhartha Daswani joined the eventual tournament champion Ansh Sheth, grade 12, in elimination rounds. Most recently, the team went back to Dallas to compete at an invitational at St. Mark’s School. Sophomore Roshan Amurthur was the overall top speaker, and senior Panav Gogte was in the final round. Juniors Valerie Li and Sahngwie Yim, as well as sophomores Sofia Shah, Angelina Antony and Roshan Amurthur also advanced. 

In speech, the team had an outstanding weekend at the Milpitas tournament. In extemporaneous speaking, where students have only 30 minutes to prepare a seven-minute speech on a current event, the following students won awards: Avelyn Jing, grade 7; Rory Hu, grade 8; Joy Hu, grade 10; Robert Fields, Shreyas Chakravarty and Kashish Priyam, grade 11. Harker also dominated the field in impromptu speaking with elimination round appearances by Lana Traiq, grade 9; Albert Yao, Ariel Zhang, Joy Hu, grade 10; and Daniel Chen and Kashish Priyam, grade 11. Ariel Zhang, grade 10, placed in original oratory.

At the CSU Long Beach tournament, Avelyn Jing placed in novice extemporaneous speaking and novice original oratory, as did Aanya Alapati, grade 6. Pavitra Kasthuri, grade 10, placed in dramatic interpretation. In extemporaneous speaking, Albert and Johu Hu, grade 10, and Kashish Priyam and Shreyas Chakravarty, grade 11, won awards.

Harker fielded several elimination round participants in impromptu speaking, including Kashish Priyam, Daniel Chen, and Chakravarty, all grade 11, as well as 10th graders Joy Hu and Ariel Zhang, and Aria Chadha, grade 8. Ariel Zhang, grade 10, Kayla Chen, grade 9, and Dina Ande, grade 12, placed in original oratory. Their most recent tournament was hosted by California State University Fullerton, where Joy Hu, grade 10, placed in extemporaneous speaking, Lana Tariq, grade 9, in impromptu, and Kayla Chen, grade 9, in oratory.

Public forum debaters have also had a strong start to the season. They just finished debating a topic about our military presence in the Arctic and are starting a new topic on federal student loan debt forgiveness. At the local Milpitas tournament, juniors Ruhan Sahasi and Veer Sahasi, as well as freshman Alice Luo and Leon Le won awards. Next, the team competed at California State Long Beach where Regina Zhang and Serena Chi, grade 8, were in the finals of the middle school division. Most recently, the Sahasi siblings and sophomores Timmy Chen and Umair Paranjpye won awards at the Presentation tournament. 

Lastly, in congressional debate, where students argue back and forth over a wide variety of public policy issues, junior Aaron Bao won awards at both the Milpitas and CSU Long Beach Tournaments. 

The team is currently looking ahead to upcoming tournaments this semester in Minneapolis, Chicago and Los Angeles, as well as local events. 

The Harker Magazine

Published two times a year, The Harker Magazine showcases some of the top news, leading programs, inspiring people and visionary plans of the greater Harker community.

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