Verbal competitors clash at state level

Speech and Debate team advance to finals at Northview

Feb.+13%2C+2016+-+The+speech+and+debate+team+poses+together+after+their+performance+at+Valdosta+High+School.+Three+members+display+the+plaques+they+earned+after+qualifying+for+the+national+tournament+held+in+Salt+Lake+City+this+June.

Brandon Kendall

Feb. 13, 2016 – The speech and debate team poses together after their performance at Valdosta High School. Three members display the plaques they earned after qualifying for the national tournament held in Salt Lake City this June.

JC Talbott, Staff Writer

The speech and debate team finished out their season on March 5 at Northview. “We [were] all excited for the state final,” debate coach Brandon Kendall said. “They only accept the very best schools, so we tried to prove ourselves.”

Since the beginning of the season, the team’s ultimate goal was to deliver their best performance at the varsity state tournament. Unlike the regular season tournaments, which only run through semi-finals, the varsity state competitions end only after the final debates are carried out.

The varsity state final at Northview featured several speech and debate finalists in various categories: juniors Mary Ellis Goins, Evan Baker and senior Harry Feinstein were all octofinalists in impromptu speech, junior Alex Davis was an octofinalist in domestic extemporaneous speaking, and senior captains Dhruva Jandhyala and Evan Johnson finished top eight.

Feb. 7, 2016 - A freshman debater holds the trophy he won at Calhoun High School. Although the speech and debate team did not win overall, he represented the Mill by winning the entire Lincoln Douglas division.
Brandon Kendall
Feb. 7, 2016 – A freshman debater holds the trophy he won at Calhoun High School. Although the speech and debate team did not win overall, he represented the Mill by winning the entire Lincoln Douglas division.

Johnson finished seventh in extemporaneous speaking and Jandhyala placed second in extemporaneous speaking.

“My favorite experience this season was placing at varsity state,” Jandhyala said. “Going to compete against people I watched grow throughout the year one last time made it my favorite experience.”

The triumphant ending of the already stellar season left the team satisfied with what they accomplished, and it can be attributed to the diligence of their practice.  

“We try hard to do our best,” Kendall said. “The debate team’s practice consists of multiple mock debates and heavy research in the computer lab, while the speech team goes to [speech team coach Sean] Hickey’s room to deliver speeches and discuss current events.”

This routine has led to success in the regular season, and the team appreciates the impact of their hard work.

The debate team won their first sweepstakes in the opening tournament at Columbus in September. “Kicking off the season with a sweepstakes is a huge morale boost,” senior and debate co-captain Darius Copper said. “From that point on, the team really strived to win more sweepstakes.”

The triumphant ending of the already stellar season left the team satisfied with what they accomplished…”

— JC Talbott

There were no individual winners in the first tournament, but Starr’s Mill won through consistency and all around solid performances.

Although the team did not win any more sweepstakes, Jandhyala, Davis, senior Aasim Noorali, junior Ethan Roland and freshman Cole Wittbrodt won individual speech and debate titles throughout the season.

Jandhyala led the speech team in most individual titles earned this year with three. He placed second in extemporaneous speaking at Alpharetta and Carrollton and won first international extemporaneous speaking at the Southern Peach district tournament.

“My favorite experience this year was placing at the Southern Peach District Tournament,” Jandhyala said. “The tournament is one of the more competitive tournaments, so placing there was a fantastic feeling that I would love to end my high school debate career with.”  

The first qualifier tournament took place on Feb. 5 at Grovetown for the state tournament on March 4. “I was ecstatic that our team performed well enough to advance,” Copper said. “It’s great that we got to practice and compete together for another month because being around the people is what makes debate great.”

The major individual win was claimed by Wittbrodt in February at Calhoun. He debated against other first and second-year members of debate, and worked his way to win the Lincoln Douglas debate, which is a type of debate concentrated on morality as evidence and reason.

“After I found out that I won the debate, I was pretty excited,” Wittbrodt said. “I also attended the Northview tournament this weekend, so this season turned out great for me.”

Although the tournament at Northview is the majority of the team’s final performance of the season, Noorali, Jandhyala and Davis qualified for the national competition that will be held in Salt Lake City in June.

“I will debate in the Lincoln Douglas category this summer,” Noorali said. “I’m pretty nervous, but mostly because I’m excited for it.”

Two of the three national qualifiers came from the speech team, coached by Hickey. Last year Hickey won the Director’s Cup, an award given to the best speech coach in the Georgia, and could potentially win it again.

Both coaches look back at the season as a success. “We’re extremely happy with what we’ve accomplished this season,” Kendall said. “There has been a sweepstake win, multiple individual winners and more.”