A group of 12 Harker Public Forum debaters traveled to Apple Valley, Minn., during the first weekend of November to compete in the national invitational and Tournament of Champions octofinal qualifier. With 178 debaters vying for the title, Harker swept the top speaking awards in Public Forum debate and six students earned bids to the Tournament of Champions, to be held next May.
Aneesh Chona, grade 12, took top speaking honors, edging out junior Kevin Duraiswamy by a single adjusted point. Chona earned 118 out of 120 total adjusted points at the tournament and both Chona and Duraiswamy each dropped a mere five points total in the six preliminary rounds. Sreyas Misra, grade 11, rounded out the top three by taking third, only a half of an adjusted point behind Duraiswamy!
Harker had three more debaters place in the top 15 speakers with senior Reyhan Kader placing ninth, senior Anuj Sharma placing 12th and sophomore Aadyot Bhatnagar earning 13th overall speaker.
Three teams made it to elimination rounds, with senior Kiran Arimilli and junior Sebi Nakos being recognized by the tournament for narrowly missing the cut as 33rd seed. Duraiswamy and Kader as well as Misra and junior Neil Khemani won their first elimination round and were eliminated in the octofinal round of the tournament. Sharma and Chona won the first two elimination rounds before losing on a 2-1 decision in the quarterfinal round, finishing in the top eight teams at the tournament.
Two Harker alumni from the Class of 2012, Aakash Jagadeesh and Akshay Jagadeesh, traveled to Minnesota to help coach the team and judge rounds at the tournament.
At a forensics tournament in Las Vegas from Oct. 25-28, Srikar Pyda, grade 11, entered elimination rounds as the third overall seed at the tournament. He made it to the octofinals.
That same weekend, at the University of the Pacific, 12 Public Forum debaters traveled to Stockton to compete at the University of the Pacific tournament. More than 100 debaters competed in the varsity Public Forum division.
Seniors David Grossman and Nikhil Agarwal went undefeated in preliminary rounds and made it to the top four teams before being eliminated on a 2-1 decision in semifinals.
Sophomores Vamsi Gadiraju and Nikita Mittal as well as Eesha Chona and Aarti Kheskani, both grade 9, made it to the top eight before being eliminated in quarterfinals.
Maneesha Panja, Sebi Nakos and Jithin Vellian, all grade 11, and Nikhil Kishore, grade 10, were eliminated in the octofinal round. Sophomores Andrew Jin and David Lin missed elimination rounds by a mere 0.3 of a speaker point! Gadiraju was also named the overall second place Public Forum speaker at the tournament.
At the Saint Mark’s Heart of Texas Invitational in Dallas held Oct. 18-22, Steven Wang, grade 10, reached the finals in United States Extemporaneous Speaking, taking sixth place overall. He also advanced to quarterfinals (top 23) in International Extemporaneous Speaking. With these results Wang is now ranked among the top few extempore in the country in several forensics websites’ ranking systems. Also at St. Mark’s, Saachi Jain, grade 11, reached Congress finals (top 13) against a very stout Texas field in her first tournament of the season.
Sophomores Leo Yu and Ayush Midha reached the final round of the St. Mark’s Sophomore Hoe-Down and lost on a 2-1 decision. Midha also participated in the Bush Institute Economics Debates, earning first place and a $2,000 scholarship.
On Oct. 21 at the League Congress tournament at Summit High School, four Harker students reached the final round (top 16): Arjun Goyal, grade 11, Nikhil Ramgiri, grade 9, Kathir Sundarraj, grade 12, and Warren Zhang, grade 12. Sundarraj went on to earn second place overall in the tournament with his finals performance, in addition to garnering a best presiding officer award in his preliminary house. Arjun Kumar, grade 11, also earned a best presiding officer award, and narrowly missed finals in part because of his willingness to serve his house in this role. Congratulations to all 13 students who competed in this tournament on an outstanding team effort. Harker tied Bellarmine for most awards with each school taking seven of the possible 23 trophies.
Twelve Harker Public Forum debaters flew to New York for the Bronx Round Robin and New York City Invitational from Oct. 17 to Oct. 21. Despite the red-eye, and going straight into a debate round the minute they arrived, Neil Khemani and Sreyas Misra, both grade 11, won seven out of 10 decisions in their pod at the Bronx Round Robin where they took second place in their pod and missed clearing the finals by a single ballot!
During the New York City Invitational, which boasts more than 230 Public Forum debaters competing in the division, Harker had two teams make it to the top 32 and clear into elimination rounds. Juniors Maneesha Panja and Sebi Nakos made it to the round of 32 before being defeated on a 2-1 decision. Khemani and Misra took down the first seed at the tournament in the round of 32 before being eliminated on a 2-1 decision in octofinals. Misra was also named the 17th overall speaker at the tournament.
This was the first national circuit tournament for many of the students in attendance. However, they all worked incredibly hard and left a positive impression on the debate community.