From working hard all year long, the debate team proudly made their way to the the top 16 finalists with three teams advancing in Montgomery County debate finals last month.
Three teams made it to the finals, all of whom were juniors, consisting of the following people: Andy Otero and Callan Logan, Dhruva Someshwar and Jack O’Grady, and Ellen Gulian and debate team captain Keza Levine. Some had been in the round-up for all three years like Levine, and some had just joined this year like Someshwar.
Levine makes sure to mention that this year was not her first year in the finals altogether. She explains that last year, she had made it to the first round of the finals but not all the way to the second day. “For my ninth and tenth grade year, I also went to finals,” Levine says, “but this year we made it a step further.” The first final has a total of 50 competitors while the second round only has 16 at the county level.
On the first day, the 50 teams set out for three debates per team. Afterwards, the judges carefully weeded out 16 exceptional teams from the 50 and those continued on to the second day. Teams advanced first based on overall record and, if there was a tie, a team’s individual performance in regard to scores and strength of opponent was taken into account.
The second day progressed with single elimination rounds, dropping losing teams after each round. Levine and Gulian survived three rounds to be semifinalists. Unfortunately, they did not make it to finals, but they worked very hard to make it to the semifinals. The finals consisted of a Richard Montgomery team and a Montgomery Blair team, which eventually led to the loss of Montgomery Blair.
While it was expected that at least Levine and Gulian would advance to finals, it came as a pleasant surprise when the two other Blake teams were chosen for the county level. As junior Callan Logan was one of the finalists, he felt that while it was shocking, it showed the team’s passion towards debate. Logan adds, “It really shocked us because it was such a great achievement…it made us feel really accomplished in our debating skills.”
And those strong debating skills were built throughout the year as the teams competed against other schools in the county. To win, they had to constantly research both sides of the given topic, for they did not know which side they were going to receive. With the mass amount of research, the teammates also used skills and knowledge they had learned in school. Someshwar says about his topic on the embargo on Cuba, “I could bring in past experience of what I learned about foreign trade”.
Even with the research and skills, the competitions would be a lot different without the teamwork. When asked about working with a partner as opposed to by himself, Someshwar says that working with his partner, O’Grady was an overall beneficial experience. “I think we built on each other,”said Someshwar, “partner and you don’t usually agree with each other but Jack and I had a good dynamic.”
Through their accomplishments and hard work, these juniors still have another year to go. Levine will be the only captain from this year not graduating, so changes to the team will have to be made. She says, “Our team is really strong this year and we’re only going to be stronger next year, so we’ll see how it goes!”