The task of winning a single national championship in debate is demanding, but putting together victories in back-to-back years is particularly rare. Nonetheless, that’s exactly what the 23 middle school students who traveled to Dallas, Texas, last week for the 12th annual National Junior Forensic League National Championship Tournament managed to do. For the second year running, the team was recognized as one of the five Schools of Excellence across all of the debate formats offered at the tournament.
Pranav Reddy, grade 8, also extended a streak for the school by bringing home a national championship, this time in Lincoln-Douglas Debate. Last year’s title came in Public Forum Debate, when two Harker pairs reached the final round and were declared co-champions. Reddy debated Resolved: When forced to choose, a just government ought to prioritize universal human rights over its national interest.
In Congressional Debate Aditya Dhar, grade 6, took third place honors nationally. When not busy winning the Lincoln-Douglas title, Reddy tackled the challenges of Congress as well, posting a fifth place result. Jai Ahuja, grade 8, and Misha Tseitlin, grade 6, joined their teammates in the Congress finals, placing them among the top 24 at the tournament.
The team of Azhar Huda and Vamsi Gadiraju, both grade 8, reached octafinals (top 16), while the team of Sophia Shatas, grade 8, and Sorjo Banerjee, grade 7, advanced to quarterfinals (top 8) of Public Forum Debate. Students participating in Public Forum considered the topic, Resolved: That the United States should intervene in another nation’s struggle for democracy.
Middle school director of forensics Karina Momary led her students to these accomplishments in her first year of coaching. “My strategy all year has been to have our middle school debaters compete against high school students, and I think that was a significant factor in our success this week,” explained Momary. The middle school team was also supported by the presence of Greg Achten, the upper school director of Policy Debate and Lincoln-Douglas Debate, and assistant coach Quinn Buniel.
This year marked the first time that the middle school NJFL National Tournament was held simultaneously with NFL Nationals for high schools. When not competing in their own rounds, all 23 middle school students had the valuable opportunity to learn by observing the high school debates.