The Smoke Signal, MSJ's Official Newspaper


Student Spotlight: Shardul Marathe

By Staff Writers Keerti Koya & Lucy Yao

From April 12-14, Junior Shardul Marathe won first place in informative speaking at his first-ever California High School Speech Association State Championships. With this massive achievement comes hours of strict preparation, from initially writing his speech to studying others’ speech styles to drilling his own over and over before rounds. 

Marathe began doing speech and debate in 2019 after being inspired by his older brother competing in international tournaments for DECA. Since 2022 though, he has competed simultaneously in Informative Speaking, Original Oratory, and Declamation (OI) to expand his horizons, giving speeches on topics ranging from plant-based meats to cultural appropriation to perfectionism. However, what motivated him most to continue was the competitors that he faced, and later on became friends with. From competing with some of the best in the nation, he has been able to push himself to understand new styles of delivery and what makes them so effective. 

He also improved through the valuable feedback he’d receive from the judges themselves. For example, Marathe started preparing for the State Championships by reviewing and rereading all judges’ comments nine days before. Working with his coach and past national finalists, he made content and stylistic changes to improve his speech, such as switching out examples or researching additional statistics to ensure he properly executed his intended impact. He successfully secured his victory by implementing comprehensive feedback gathered from multiple perspectives. “From the Berkeley Invitational … [one comment said] I should change one of my jokes instead of talking about ignorance in relation to Buddhism, so I switched it to ignorance in relation to the British stealing chicken tikka masala,” Marathe said.

This persistent determination is not easy to balance with Marathe’s other studies and extracurriculars though. It’s a major struggle, and the solution has come from blocking his time. He tries to finish all of his schoolwork by the end of the school day, so that he can leave time in the afternoon for any extra studying or extracurriculars.“Speech and debate isn’t necessarily like an activity to me [though]. I just view it as something that’s fun for me … and more of a break from academics, from doing my sports and all of that,” Marathe said.

For the rest of this year’s circuit, Marathe hopes to place first at the National Competition next by continuing his hard work. In the far future though, he plans to continue being involved with the activity by coaching kids in tournaments and encouraging their engagement. All the skills he has made from speech and debate — networking, communication, and presenting — are valuable ones he will carry throughout his life. “One of the things I learned to do was be genuine, be honest with my audience … and being able to communicate with a variety of audiences, whether it’s coaches, competitors, judges, students, etc. … has helped me when it comes to my relationships today,” Marathe said. 

For any MSJ students who want to join MSJ Speech and Debate, Marathe advises starting early. He mentions that after starting, one will soon realize how short their time in speech and debate truly is. For him, there are only two more tournaments left where he can be dedicated to competing before he graduates. Even if it’s just attending the tournaments, Marathe notes that those can oftentimes be more memorable than the actual awards themselves. “Figure out what your passion is…just start early and have fun with your event. If you don’t like it, switch, and if you do like it, continue. Try to do all the tournaments and just have fun with the activity. That’s all I can say,” Marathe said.

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