Speech and debate team sees success in recent tournaments

October 16, 2018 — by Jayne Zhou and Manasi Garg

The debate team works hard after their head coach leaves.

Over the summer, Chris Harris, the longtime head coach of the speech and debate program, resigned. His departure raised many questions about the team’s operation and the future of its leadership.

Currently, there are two new coaches: debate coach Victor Rivas Umana and extemporaneous-focused coach Vidya Ullal.

In the meantime,  a parent-led Booster committee still oversees the club, even as the club is shifting to becoming more student-led and student-run than in previous years. Without the presence of a director, the club is struggling to find a viable structure going forward.

Despite these uncertain times for speech and debate, students are forging ahead, determined to succeed at their events. After just a month of practice, the debate team started the new season with a bang at the eighth annual Robert Garcia debate tournament held at Saint Francis High School on Sept. 16. Many local schools, such as Palo Alto High School, Bellarmine High School, Leland High School and Harker High School, among others, attended.  

Public forum debate team Adhit Sankaran and Ronak Pai, both juniors, took first place, while sophomore Nolan Chen and junior Siva Sambasivam took second and juniors Ashwin Ramakrishna and Shivam Verma broke to octofinals. Senior Lincoln Douglas debater David Koh broke to quarterfinals, and junior Christopher Feng broke to octofinals in Lincoln Douglas debate and was named fourth place speaker.

Chen said that this tournament was his first time competing in Public Forum and that at first, he was nervous going varsity. But the team won all four of their rounds on Saturday.

“Each time we got a win, we felt more confident,” Chen said.

Both Sankaran and Pai attributed their win to new strategies they were trying out and and their dedication.

“We developed a new strategy this year to win after two years of experience,” Pai said. “Through communication and several practice rounds, we identified what worked and what didn’t.”

Their second tournament, the Stephen Stewart Middle School and High School Invitational, was held at Milpitas High School on Sept. 29.

The team was met with another success, with Koh taking first place in Lincoln-Douglas and Sankaran and Pai breaking to octofinals in Public Forum.

“We hope the coaching improves and can take us to the next level, and hopefully we’ll improve even more,” Pai said.