Debate team dominates regional, league tournaments

Written by Eric Epstein

The debate team continued their successful year when a large number of representatives placed highly at their last two debate tournaments. In the James Logan Invitational in Union City from Jan. 13 to 15, five of the teams of students made it to the octofinals round, and juniors Arjun Prabhakar and Siddharth Jain went on to win the whole tournament. On the weekend of Jan. 27 at a league tournament, Gunn sent 11 teams, three of which won all four of their rounds, according to club president senior Carolyn Wang.

The recent tournament success for the debate team is quite indicative of the growth of the program as a whole. According to Wang, in the last few years, the team has established itself as a program comparable to the other perennial debate powerhouses in the region. “In our league, we have a few other schools like Bellarmine College Prepa- ratory, Archbishop Mitty and Leland High School, which are generally schools that rank statewide and nationwide,” Wang said. “These are very successful programs that have been around for a very long time. What’s really great for us is that recently, we’ve been able to compete on a similar level to them, despite not having the same resources.”

The influx of debate members has made the team more successful. “[Gunn Debate’s] recent success has been pretty great,” policy debate captain junior Jamie Hamilton said. “A lot of teams have been doing well; we’ve gotten a lot more members, and they’re a lot more dedicated too… overall it really helps the team out.”

A few years ago, the debate team had only a handful of members. “[In the 2014-15 school year], we had around six people on the team, and we’d practice in the library a er school until they kicked us out at five,” Wang said. “Now we have an advisor, which is a really big step for us.”

Math teacher Diane Gleason became the club advisor in 2015 when she saw that team members were in need of transportation to tournaments. “When I started with speech and debate, they had an advisor pretty much in name only,” Gleason said. “There were maybe 10 students involved, and they pretty much did everything on their own. They really needed chaperones, so I agreed to help chaperone, and I got hooked in.”

The debate team also puts more responsibility on the club members compared to other schools’ teams. “I think we’re a lot more student-run than other [debate] clubs,” Prabhakar said. “Other clubs spend a lot of money on coaches and whatnot. We don’t really have the resources for that, so instead we have students train other students.

I think it’s worked out pretty well because we have a leadership team that does a lot of work compared to other schools where the coaches would do that work.”

Jain also feels that the team is unique in the bond between teammates. “I think the Gunn debate team is really tight-knit,” Jain said. “Even though we’re a big team, everyone knows everyone on a first-name basis. That just makes it a lot more cohesive as a team, and we celebrate our victories together and rally from our low points or defeats.”

The members of the debate team feel that participating in the club offers many positive benefits. “I used to hate talking to people and talking in front of people, and debate has really taught me that you might have to stand up there and argue a point that you don’t necessarily agree with or believe,” Wang said. “It’s your job to convince the person sitting in front of you, it’s your job to communicate with your partner and to advocate for your side. I think a lot of people could learn from that, and they’re skills that people will need at some point in their life.”

Hamilton also feels the bene ts of debate spilling into his everyday life. “It’s a lot easier to stand up in front of a room and give a presentation,” he said. “In classes, I am never worried about the way I’m going to sound, my pacing, getting nervous and using filler words. I’ve just gotten so much practice; it’s really helped me in so many ways.”

-Epstein, a junior, is the Business Manager

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