By Allie Floros and Jessica Wu
This past weekend, the Newton South debate team continued its success at the State Qualifiers tournament with junior Gil Alon and senior Kayla Chang’s first place win.
The South debate team remains one of the top teams in Massachusetts having received awards in local and national circuits over the years including this year’s first place finish at Columbia.
Despite South’s success at previous tournaments, the varsity team had not won States since 2014. Coming into the tournament, coach Joshua Cohen explained that the team “was not completely confident they were going to win”, however he “knew they had really good debaters and as good of a shot as anybody.”
This tournament’s debate topic focused on the benefits and disadvantages of United States involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Public Forum debate tournament champions, Chang and Alon, “did not feel especially prepared coming into states,” explains Alon because the duo did not complete extra preparations for the state tournament, but rather dedicated the same amount of work as a normal debate competition would require.
However, Alon felt she had an upperhand in this topic, due to her Jewish roots. Furthermore, Chang attended a tournament on the same topic a week before, so she knew what to expect from her opponents.
For Alon, winning states remained a needed confidence boost as she notes that “in debate, half of how do you do is how confident you are”, and “going to your next tournament on a high” is extremely important.
Alon continues by stating that this win will motivate and give her confidence for upcoming national tournaments.
In addition to Chang’s and Alon’s first place finish, South dominated the competition. Out of sixty entries, seniors Ayush Upneja and Mitch Gamburg, and sophomores Anika Sridhar and Jay Garg finished in the top four, while seniors Rebecca Shaar and Malcolm Davis placed in the top eight.
Cohen credits the success at States to the members of the team as he explains that the students “[are] not [debating] because some adult has assigned them to do it, and they’re not [debating] because there’s going to be a test. They’re doing it because they want to be better.”
The dedication and involvement of the team members helped the South debate team to succeed on the local circuit, and has enabled three South teams to attend the Tournament of Champions, the most prestigious debate tournament of the year, in April.
In May, Chang and Alon, along with two other South pairings, will attend the National Catholic Forensic League nationals, while in June, two South teams will compete at the National Speech and Debate Association Nationals.
Any interested students can join either the South speech or debate team for meetings during all J blocks and after schools in Room 4212 and Cutler Commons respectively.