MSMS Debate Team qualifies for national competition

Seven MSMS students qualified for this year's National Speech and Debate Association qualifiers tournament.

Courtesy of MSMS Speech and Debate

Seven MSMS students qualified for this year’s National Speech and Debate Association qualifiers tournament.

Jillian Snodgrass, Copy Editor

MSMS students excel in a plethora of disciplines, and lately, Speech and Debate has proven to be one of those. 

Speech and Debate team members, seniors Micheal Lu and Aaron Wan and juniors Amy Zhang, Jessica Yan, Andrew Yu, Lyem Ningthou and Vineeth Vanga, have attended practices and competitions throughout this year, and after recent success at a state-level meet, will participate in the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) Qualifiers tournament. From there, they could advance to the official NSDA competition.

Methods of preparation for competitions varied from student to student. Vanga described having his speech on his mind nearly all the time.

“The way I normally prepare for tournaments is practicing my speeches a lot the week before…,” Vanga said. “I constantly find myself reciting parts of my speech when I’m bored and ask myself in what ways I can make them better.”

As a debater rather than a speaker, Yu didn’t have anything to memorize; rather, he had to be prepared to defend either side of a chosen debate subject.

“During the weeks leading up to the competition, I prepare by researching for arguments on both sides of the debate topic,” Yu said.

In order to be admitted to the NSDA Qualifiers tournament, the students competed in the Jackson Catholic Forensic League tournament.  Zhang explained the process to qualify for the next level.

“The top six entries in an event qualify for nationals,” Zhang said. “There were only six total entries for Duo Interpretation, so Jessica [Yan] and I automatically qualified.”

Vanga’s experience was slightly more complicated, as he participated in a different category of competition.

“The event I qualified in was Congressional Debate. All of the competitors were split up into two chambers of congress and we had to debate a series of bills. The top 12 from both chambers came together for a finals session known as the super session. Out of the top 12, the top six competitors in the super session were chosen to attend nationals in Congressional Debate,” Vanga said.

All three students interviewed expressed cautious optimism about the upcoming tournament. Yu explained his expectations for the level of competition the team will face.

“Usually, national tournaments have much more teams that are better prepared,” Yu said. “I expect the competition to be pretty tough, but I still believe that our team can do well.”

Zhang emphasized the idea of working hard, but not so hard that the enjoyment and fun of a new learning experience is lost.

“I think the best mindset to have is to go in without the expectation of advancing so that you can make the most out of the experience instead of stressing too much to enjoy it,” Zhang said.

Vanga echoed that sentiment when reflecting on past tournaments and looking forward to future ones.

“Looking back, I would tell my younger self not to worry about winning all the time and be more focused on learning,” Vanga said. “My sophomore year was the first year I started to perform noticeably well in competitions, and it ultimately culminated in me going to NSDA at a very young age, so it was hard at times to deal with the pressure of having to do well.”

Zhang’s final thoughts were ones of gratitude for her journey thus far and the people she has shared it with. 

“I’d like to thank Coach Pierce and co-presidents Aaron and Michael for going above and beyond this year in not only helping us prepare but also for cultivating a supportive team environment,” Zhang said. “Speech and Debate isn’t only about winning trophies and qualifying for nationals, it’s also about the people that you get to share these achievements with.”