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Debate team qualifies for state and national tournaments

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By: Utkash Dubey

Sophomores Catalina Zhao and David Patou receive words of congratulations after qualifying for Nationals.

Photo courtesy of Catalina Zhao and David Patou

On March 12, Bellarmine High School hosted the annual debate tournament, the Catholic Forensic League (CFL) State Qualifiers. Gunn’s debate team performed exceptionally well, as seniors Joe Atlas and partner Sian Ye, as well as seniors David Oyer and partner Jeremy Neff, capitalized on the event and successfully qualified for the state tournament.

Both of the teams participated in parliamentary (otherwise known as “parli”) debate events, where teams are assigned topics on the spot and given 20 minutes of preparatory time. “There’s no way to prepare other than to bring lots of articles and be generally knowledgeable,” Ye wrote in an email. According to Atlas, parli debate is more of an impromptu style. The topic changes every round, and teams preliminarily compete in a round-robin format against five other teams. If a team’s record is 4-1 or better, they move on to the “go round.” The top teams compete against one-another for a spot to the state debate. According to Atlas, the CFL parli debates comprised of well over 50 teams, and Gunn teams Atlas-Ye and Oyer-Neff were of the six qualifying teams. The other four spots were taken by teams from Los Gatos, Saratoga, Monta Vista and Leland High School.

Overall, the teams took a total of two out of six spots available for states, and Gunn debate is the only group in the league to qualify more than one team. According to Atlas, this kind of success is largely unprecedented and has been great for the team. “It’s very hard to qualify for state in any event,” Atlas said. “Last year, no one qualified from Gunn. This year, Gunn took two out of six spots in parli, which is incredible.” Oyer, who paired up with Neff, feels similarly, “[It’s] great for our program, especially since we lost our coach this year and have been in a state of flux,” Oyer wrote in an email.

A few weeks later,  from March 23 to 25, one of Gunn’s policy debate teams competed at the National Forensic League’s National Qualifiers. Out of an initial pool of 18 teams, sophomores Catalina Zhao and David Patou were among the three qualifying teams.  The tournament was in the format of double elimination, in which a team is out after losing two rounds.

For policy debate, there is one set topic every year. According to Zhao, the current resolution is “The United States Federal Government should substantially increase its exploration and/or development of space beyond the earth’s mesosphere.”

This debate event, which is very evidence-orientated and requires extensive research and files, involves discussing a proposed case that falls under the resolution. “The affirmative side’s burden is to provide a well-supported plan.,” Patou said. “The negative team must argue the plan and prove that it’s not worth it for the government to pass. Issues such as domestic affairs and international relations come up.”
Since the duo qualified for the national tournament, they will be debating in Indianapolis, Indiana, during summer break. Overall, they are pleased with the results. “David and I  are honored to have made it this far because the last time a Gunn team qualified to Nationals was two years ago,” Zhao said. “Policy is one of the most difficult events, and this was a tough tournament with some of the best teams around the area. We’re happy to see our hard work come to fruition and to represent our team and school at Nationals.”

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Debate team qualifies for state and national tournaments