The Smoke Signal, MSJ's Official Newspaper


Club Spotlight: MSJ Debate on the Road to the Tournament of Champions



By: Staff Writer Rishab Ramapriyan


Debate has made quite a presence nationally this year, due to the persistence and hard work of its members with multiple debaters qualifying to the Tournament of Champions (TOC), held at the University of Kentucky and considered to be one of the most prestigious high school debate tournaments nationally, whose attendees are arguably the pinnacle of high school debate. To attend the TOC, debaters must have at least 2 bids, earned by placing at a certain level at a national tournament that has been approved by the TOC. Sophomores Max Wu and Nikit Shingari and Junior Shivane Sabharwal have qualified to the 2015 TOC, and 2 other MSJ teams hold a single bid.

In its heyday back in 2003, MSJ debate had a particularly strong program, especially for Lincoln-Douglas debate (LD), a 1 vs. 1 debate format. In fact, an MSJ alumnus Andrew Garvin was the LD Champion of 2003 TOC and MSJ Alumnus Hirsh Jain, was the 2005 TOC runner-up in LD debate. For the next 8 years, the team lacked its national presence and didn’t have much national success. It was not until the last few years that the team started to rise to the high national status it once held. This year, MSJ has 2 teams that are the first to qualify to the TOC since the pinnacle of MSJ Debate’s success about 10 years ago.  The team has grown achieving success and that put it on the map within the national debate community.

Sophomores Max Wu and Nikit Shingari earned 3 bids and championed 3 tournaments in Public Forum Debate, a 2 vs. 2 format and Freshmen Ankush Swarnakar and Devesh Kodnani hold a single bid. MSJ Debate’s Public Forum program was only created 2 years ago, and the team has achieved so much success in the last year, both nationally and locally. Wu said, “I think as a team and as individual debaters, we’ve come a long way. I’m certainly looking forward to the future years to come as well. That said, going to the TOCs or winning another tournament are both just small steps we’re going to have to take in hopes of eventually leaving a permanent mark on high school debate. The fact that only two years ago our Public Forum program practically didn’t exist and now we’ve put our name on the map really shows how far you can go if you truly enjoy something.” The Public Forum program has shown continued success and other teams hold the potential to qualify to the TOC this season.

The LD Debate program has also had some brilliant achievements this season. Junior Shivane Sabharwal, LD Captain, won 3 bids at various national tournaments across the country, qualifying to the TOC. Senior Anand Balaji, MSJ Debate President, holds one bid in LD Debate. Sabharwal said, “Looking back, I’ve seen that MSJ debate has come a long way. We started with a program that was practically non-existent, and have become one that is becoming one of the top debate programs in the state. I know that my teammates and I are looking forward to the TOC at the end of this year, and hope to leave a lasting impression on the national circuit of debate.” MSJ used to have a nationally renowned LD program, and recent successes highlight the progress of the program.

MSJ Debate hopes to continue to achieve much success throughout the remainder of the season. Shingari said, “As a team Mission is growing stronger every year. We already have many teams who have potential to qualify to the TOC. Looking to the future the season has barely reached the middle and by the end of the season our team will be able to do some real damage at tournaments like Nationals and TOC and States.” The 2015 TOC will be held in late April. Many other debaters from MSJ may qualify in the coming months. Reflecting on the progress of MSJ Debate, Balaji said, “When I first came on the debate team as a freshman, we had less than 25 members, no coaching, and only went to about 6 local tournaments a year. Now we have more than 60 members, a professional coach, and we compete in tournaments all over the country. Seeing the tremendous growth of our organization over the past 4 years has been truly remarkable. MSJ’s Debate program is going to continue to be a powerhouse for many years to come.”


Photo Courtesy: MSJ Debate

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