The East Debate and Forensics squad will be sending seven students to compete in the National Speech and Debate Tournament from June 10 through June 15. The tournament is hosted by the National Forensic League and will be held in Indianapolis, Indiana .
The competition will last for five days. Competitions are staggered, with some ending on Wednesday and others ending on Friday. A series of elimination rounds will decide which competitors continue to compete in further elimination, semi-final and final rounds. The 2012 champions and runners-up will be announced on Friday, June 15.
With two freshmen, three sophomores and only one junior and one senior, this year’s squad is one of the youngest that Trey Witt, the debate and forensics adviser, has taken to Nationals. He believes that their youth is keeping them grounded and driving the team to spend more time preparing for the competition. Freshmen Ali Dastjerdi and Henry Walter are also in a position where they could win an NFL scholarship that is only granted to debaters who qualify for Nationals four years in a row.
“There’s some pressure in qualifying as a freshman,” Dastjerdi said. “Simply because then you’re expected to do well as a sophomore and a junior and a senior. But I think I can do it, and the… idea of winning a scholarship like that is really good.”
In the past, only two East debaters have placed at the NFL National Tournament. Karl Walter admits that since East is not a school that travels the national circuit, they often don’t have the experience or clout to take home high placings. However, the squad agrees that the trip to Nationals is more about the experience to them than it is about rankings or trophies. Witt agrees that the squad should relax and enjoy the experience of Nationals.
“We have such a young squad, and they are working really hard, harder than any squad I’ve had before,” Witt said. “I want them to see what they can do, and see what their competition is, and I want them to enjoy it. It’s so hard to place at Nationals, that we all will be happy if they leave feeling like they did their best.”
The students competing are:
Freshman Ali Dastjerdi
Dastjerdi will be competing in Congressional Debate, which mimics the process of passing a piece of legislature in the Senate. Dastjerdi will spend three days at Nationals in sessions of debate where he will be judged on three minute speeches he presents over bills ranging from genetically modified food to a bill that aims to privatize Amtrak. Dastjerdi has spent several weeks compiling information and evidence about the different bills being addressed so that he can deliver informed speeches in the competition rounds.
“During the forensics season, you get pretty good at being able to actually deliver a speech if you have the material to give it on,” Dastjerdi said. “What I’ve been working on is preparing the information that I need to give those speeches at Nationals. By the end of this, I’ll have about a 100 page packet of everything I need to know.”
Sophomores Ada Throckmorton and Utsa Ramaswami
Throckmorton and Ramaswami will compete as a team in Policy Debate, the classic form of debate. Their team will be debating for or against the governmental increase of exploration and development in space. The girls will not know what side they are debating until they reach the competition, and therefore must be prepared on both sides of the argument.
Freshman Henry Walter and Sophomore Karl Walter
The Walters are competing as a team in Public Forum Debate. The brothers will compete against other teams of two by debating the “stand-your-ground” laws. In each round of debate, they will be assigned to either argue to have the laws revoked or kept, an argument that has become relevant in the media and politics since the Treyvon Martin case. The teams will not be informed of which side of the argument they will be on until they enter the competition. Karl competed in the same event last year at the Catholic Forensic League National Tournament, a competition similar to the NFL tournament. He feels more confident and prepared going into this year’s tournament than he did last year.
“As a freshman, I hadn’t taken any debate and I was just in forensics,” Karl said. “I took novice debate this year, and that really helped me to organize my thoughts so I became more organized. I feel like the tournament will be harder [this year], but I feel like I’m a better debater, too.”
Senior Chris Carey and Junior Jack Mitchell
Carey and Mitchell will compete as a team in a Duo Interpretation. This competition is an interpretation of a previously written piece. The boys will perform a humorous piece titled, “Alice in Zombieland” by Gena Showalter. It parodies the childhood classic, using Lewis Carroll’s text but inserting zombies. The partners are not allowed to make eye contact throughout their entire performance, where they will adapt their voices and actions to play as the different characters. This is Chris’ second time competing at the NFL National Tournament, and as it is his last tournament as a Lancer, he is feeling both pressure and excitement.
“It can be good thing or a bad thing [being the only senior],” Carey said. “This is my last forensics tournament ever, so I’m kind of nervous. I want it to end on a good note and there will be tough competition. At the same time, though, I’m looking forward to seeing how our duo will match up against others.”
Results will be posted June 16. To view results, visit www.nflonline.org.