Speech and Debate Finish Season with Cal Invitational

By Staff Writers Katherine Guo & Maggie Zhao

Members of the Speech club and Debate club attended the 45th Cal Invitational at UC Berkeley on February 17 to 19. This year, both Speech and Debate sent a record number of competitors, compared to previous years: 26 debate teams and 14 speech competitors. Due to success in both categories of competition, the team was ranked 8th overall among participating schools.

MSJ Speech saw competitors advance to elimination rounds in Duo Interpretation, Dramatic Interpretation, Humorous Interpretation, Original Oratory, and Extemporaneous Speaking. A few competitors even reached the final rounds of eliminations. Sophomore Swetha Naidu and Speech Secretary Junior Aparajita Pathak placed third in Duo Interpretation, Sophomores Ayush Agarwal and Kriti Vajjhula placed fourth in Duo Interpretation, and Speech President Senior Rohan Srinivasan placed seventh in Dramatic Interpretation.

Remarking on performance at the Cal Invitational, Srinivasan said, “As a team, we’ve gone from 0 to 2 to 6 competitors in the top 7 over the past three years. Our entire team is moving forward and growing. We manage to hold our own against teams with classes, with multiple professional coaches. It’s a true testament to the Mission name and to the Warrior spirit. I cannot be more proud to be called captain of this team, my family.”

Debate sent teams to compete in both the Varsity and Junior Varsity divisions of Public Forum and Lincoln-Douglas debate. In total, four Varsity Public Forum teams, and one Junior Varsity Public Forum team advanced to elimination rounds. Though Debate also sent nine competitors to Lincoln-Douglas debate, none advanced to elimination rounds.

The Cal Invitational is one of the highlights of the Speech and Debate tournament calendar, as it is one of the few national-circuit level tournaments located in the Bay Area. In addition, the Cal Invitational is the last tournament of the season from which debate teams can qualify to the Tournament of Champions, the most prestigious national-level tournament of the year. The Tournament of Champions bid system requires competitors to reach a designated level of elimination rounds in order to receive a bid, two of which qualify a team to the Tournament of Champions.

Debate Public Forum Captain Junior Ishan Maunder and Senior Devesh Kodnani, ranked first in the nation for Public Forum by debaterankings.com at the time of writing, received their ninth Tournament of Champions bid of the year. Kodnani said, “Ishan and I did pretty well over the weekend — we got to Quarterfinals, and also won the California Round Robin, and I took first place speaker [at the Round Robin]. I think the biggest takeaway from the weekend was that MSJ is getting really consistent: almost every team in both JV and Varsity had a winning record, and both of our Tournament of Champions-qualified teams earned an additional bid.”

In Triple-Octofinals, sophomores Rithvik Koppurapu and Dylan Zhang were bracketed against Maunder and Kodnani. Juniors Arunav Gupta and Lucas Huang were also bracketed against Maunder and Kodnani in Double-Octofinals. In situations like these, the team with the higher preliminary round ranking proceeds to the next elimination round without debating, called “walking over.” Both teams were “walked” over by Maunder and Kodnani, and thus received “ghost” bids. The reasoning behind this rule is that since Maunder and Kodnani eventually earned a bid but did not actually defeat the other teams, the tournament cannot have known if either of the two lower-ranked teams would have received the bid had the rounds actually played out. Gupta and Huang now have three bids, and Zhang and Koppurapu received their first bid.

The Cal Invitational was a strong finish to the successful season both Speech and Debate have enjoyed this year. This past season, Debate has won tournaments such as the Blake Invitational, Arizona State Invitational, MLK Invitational and the Stanford Invitational. Debate Co-President Senior Lavanya Singh said, “Debate has had quite the year so far, especially considering the incredible success of some of our Public Forum teams and the overall growth of our team as a whole. I think there’s potential to make MSJ a force on the [national] circuit in coming years.”

Speech has had multiple competitors reach the final rounds at the Jon Schamber Invitational, the James Logan Martin Luther King Jr. Invitational, and the Stanford Invitational. Both clubs will also be sending qualifying competitors to compete at prestigious post-season tournaments like the 2018 Tournament of Champions in April and the 2018 National Speech and Debate Tournament in June.

Photo by Staff Writer Maggie Zhao

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