By Jenny Achten, Scott Odekirk and Greg Achten
The speech and debate team is off to an amazing start this season. The team has competed at 15 tournaments this season locally and in Texas, Florida, Iowa and Southern California. Already the team has proven to be nationally competitive across all of the events we participate in, with multiple students winning awards at national competitions. When asked about the keys to the team’s success, coach Greg Achten explained, “I have been very impressed with how hard our students have worked this year. In all of the events, we lost very talented seniors to graduation, but our returning students have really stepped up this year and demonstrated tremendous leadership.”
In policy debate, we have had standout performances by Jacob Ohana and Alan Hughes, both grade 12, who did so well at the prestigious St. Mark’s tournament that they are partly qualified for the Tournament of Champions. Maddie Huynh, grade 10, and Andy Lee, grade 9, made it to the final round of a sophomore round robin. Megan Huynh, grade 12, Anusha Kuppahally, grade 11, Esha Deokar, grade 11, Deven Parikh, grade 9, Jason Lin, grade 9 and Jai Bahri, grade 10, also have all won awards in policy. The year-long topic in policy debate is about federal education reform. Our students advocate that the Supreme Court needs to guarantee unauthorized migrants a right to education.
The individual events competitors also have had an outstanding season. Avi Gulati, grade 10 and Haris Hosseini, grade 11, have each won first place in original oratory and made it to the final round multiple times. Gulati also has made it to the final round of extemporaneous speaking, along with David Feng, grade 10. Nikhil Dharmaraj, grade 11, qualified for finals in original oratory. Nikki Solanki, grade 10, has made multiple final-round appearances in dramatic interpretation and programmed oral interpretation.
In Lincoln-Douglas debate, Serena Lu, grade 12, was invited to compete in an elite round robin at Presentation High School. Karoun Kaushik, grade 8, had a remarkable performance in the junior varsity division of the Presentation tournament, where he took first place! Harker also had a fabulous showing at the Harvard-Westlake tournament. Lauren Fu, Sachin Shah and Quentin Clark, all grade 10, Akshay Manglik and Aditya Tadimeti, both grade 9, and Anshul Reddy, grade 8, all made it to elimination rounds. The Lincoln-Douglas debaters are researching and arguing about whether wealthy nations are morally obligated to provide poorer countries with development assistance.
In public forum debate, Amanda Cheung and Annie Ma, both grade 10, have reached elimination rounds. The grade 11 duo of Clarissa Wang and Cindy Wang have been invited to two exclusive round robins and have represented the school in elimination rounds across the country. The public forum community is debating the very timely topic of universal background checks for gun sales.
In congressional debate, Andrew Sun, grade 9, and David Feng, grade 10, performed well enough at the University of Florida to earn their first bids to the Tournament of Champions. Jason Huang, grade 11, already has had such a great season that he is fully qualified to the Tournament of Champions. Congressional debaters argue about a wide variety of topics and must be very tuned into current events to be successful.
The coaches also have been incredibly proud of how well the students have operated as a cohesive team. There have been many instances where students who were eliminated from a competition immediately turned around to coach teammates who advanced. More experienced students have also done a great job of mentoring newer students before tournaments. Coach Scott Odekirk noted, “The friendly and supportive atmosphere of the team is on display at tournament. Nobody is eliminated until everyone is eliminated. We cheer each other on and lift each other when we are down. Honestly, it is quite inspiring.”