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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Speech and debate team dives into upcoming season with juniors at the helm

Timothy Leung
The speech and debate team advertises their homemade cake pops along with bags of popcorn during the homecoming reveal on Aug. 15.

Under the leadership of co-presidents Ashish Goswami and Timothy Leung — both juniors — and new speech coach Jenny Cook, the school’s speech and debate team is looking to pursue ambitious fundraising and competition plans in hopes of winning national tournaments.

Over the summer, the team’s debate coach, Steve Clemmons, conducted rounds of interviews with 14 candidates to decide this year’s leadership team. Though the large number of applicants made the decision a longer, more tedious process, it was a sign of hope to coaches and students alike that so many were interested in speech and debate.

The two selected club presidents, Goswami and Leung, are both highly accomplished competitors who have seen success at numerous tournaments, including the Tournament of Champions in Kentucky and the National Speech and Debate Tournament in Arizona. The club’s vice presidents are juniors Leonardo Jia and Kinnera Potluri.

“Historically, this club has not had very strong leadership,” Goswami said. “It meant a lot that [Timothy and I were trusted with this club], especially because we care so much about speech and debate, and we want this activity to be spread and shared with other people.”

The team has a few main goals, the most important being to win at least one of the three major tournaments: the TOC (Tournament of Champions) in late April, held in Lexington, the NCFL (National Catholic Forensics League) Grand Nationals in late May, held in Chicago, and the NSDA (National Speech and Debate Association) Nationals in mid-June, held in Des Moines. 

“I think that having new young blood hungry to win at the top makes leading the club very important, especially since this is the first year that we have an all-junior president and vice president structure, so everyone is still very much determined to win,” Goswami said. 

Veteran members have already begun competing. Several attended the National Speech and Debate Season Opener, held in an online format on Sept. 9-11. The best performance was Goswami and Jia making it to the Public Forum double octafinals out of 236 total participating teams.

However, due to the team’s struggles with funding for coaching and travel fees, the team is at a disadvantage compared to larger private schools with more resources.

Although last year’s leadership team helped run logistics fairly smoothly, Goswami and Leung both felt that not much else was done past the bare minimum, meaning that the club is starting this year with a lack of funds.

Club leadership is looking to combat this by proactively planning and executing fundraisers throughout the year — for example, at the Homecoming reveal, they held a home-made cake pop fundraiser where they raised over $200.

These profits were directed to help hire their new speech coach, Jenny Cook, whose presence in the club has already been felt by many. Cook’s experience includes being a member of the National Speech and Debate Association hall-of-fame as well as the founder of a renowned premier debate summer camp, Summit Debate

“Her passion for forensics is through the roof — she advocates so much for finding your voice and succeeding, and her goals are so aligned with the ones that we have,” Leung said.

Cook will be at tournaments to support and advise competitors in between rounds and work one-on-one with students during practices to improve their speeches. She also plans on coordinating meetings with the student leadership team along with debate coach Steve Clemmons to further plan out ways to improve the team as a whole.

The team has already begun practices with an orientation on Sept. 12, where the club, which now boasts a roster of more than 70 members, met its officer team and coaches and participated in fun introductory activities. During their weekly practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6-8 p.m., the team is preparing for upcoming competitions, like the Yale Invitational on Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 as well as the Nano Nagle Classic Round Robin at Presentation High School on Oct. 6-8. 

“Everyone is very passionate about what they do, so I am really excited to see how all the effort plays out in our competition results,” Leung said.

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