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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Sophomore duo steps up at recent debate tournaments

Leonardo Jia goes over strategy during debate practice on April 5.
Ashish Goswami

Leonardo Jia goes over strategy during debate practice on April 5.

“Is everyone ready?” sophomore Leonardo Jia said. Nods came from around the room. Standing in the middle of a classroom in UC Berkeley, Jia was participating in one of the most prestigious debate tournaments. Jia took one last sip of water and began to speak. 

“My partner and I affirm the resolution: In the United States, right-to-work laws do more harm than good.” 

As the round went on, debaters on both sides spoke passionately, crafted clever responses and did their best to convince the judge. As the round concluded both sides shook hands as Jia and his debate partner Ashish Goswami were announced as winners.

This was just one of many debate rounds in the California Invitational Debate Tournament, where Jia and Goswami have found success in multiple tournaments this season. During the California Invitational Berkeley Debate tournament, from Feb. 18-20, Goswami and Jia won five out of the six qualification rounds, qualified to eliminations and won another three rounds before being defeated in the quarterfinals. This placed them in the top eight teams out of 193 teams.

“The energy there is something different, and I don’t think you get to experience it in a lot of places,” Goswami said. “The nature of speech and debate is that you have to be passionate about what you’re doing, so to be around all these people who have the same passion for debate as I do is really fun.”

From Feb. 24-26, Goswami and Jia competed in Tournament of Champions Digital Speech & Debate Series No. 2. The tournament had 110 Public Forum teams and was hosted online. Goswami and Jia won five of six preliminary rounds and won five more elimination rounds, en route to winning the tournament.

To achieve such success, Goswami and Jia had to devote a substantial amount of time to preparing for the tournaments. In the spring, Public Forum debate topics switch every month and are released a month in advance, so the two decided to skip the January tournaments to spend all their time on the February topic.

They researched for evidence, thought of responses and participated in practice rounds. Spending weeks preparing for every possibility, Goswami and Jia gathered and organized almost 100 pages of evidence they could use for the tournaments.

“For debate, the preparation that goes into it is a lot different from, for example, math or science,” Jia said. “You don’t have to do lots of problems or memorize formulas for debate. You need research and you need to practice using and analyzing the research to help your argumentation.”

Despite a large amount of research and preparation going into their tournaments, Goswami and Jia still find the debate experience to be rewarding, believing that debate isn’t about simply defeating the opposing side or winning a round.

“Whether it’s public speaking in front of a class or talking to your boss in the future, the communication skills that debate develops is invaluable,” Goswami said.

In the future, the duo plans to participate in more tournaments, hoping to compete against stronger teams. Despite not having qualified to the National Speech and Debate Tournament, they still plan to compete in the Tournament of Champions, another one of the most prestigious tournaments, on the weekend of April 15 in person at the University of Kentucky. As the only Saratoga team heading to the Tournament of Champions, the duo hope to relay the knowledge and experience gained there to the rest of the team. 

“Especially right now as sophomores, there are so many great teams that are older than us and have more experience, which makes it tough,” Goswami said. “I hope that we can one day also be there and become a very seasoned team.”

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