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Sidwell Friends School's Student Newspaper Since 1974


Sidwell Friends School's Student Newspaper Since 1974


Sidwell Friends School's Student Newspaper Since 1974


Sidwell Debate Team Enjoys Success in Recent Tournaments

In recent months, Sidwell has seen success in local and national debate tournaments. Select debaters qualified for the upcoming Tournament of Champions (TOC) and the National Catholic Forensic League Grand National Tournament (NCFL Grand Nationals) through various tournaments on the local and national circuits, such as the Harvard National Speech and Debate Tournament. 

Debate coach Colin Downes is very proud of the team’s recent success, especially at Harvard, a tournament he considers a cornerstone of the debate program. Senior Jimmy Chen and his partner, senior Sajan Shah, notched a 4-2 record in the Harvard preliminary rounds, which allowed them to advance to the elimination rounds. 

“Harvard’s one of the biggest tournaments on the circuit, so there [were] definitely some 

expectations going into it, but I was partnering with Sajan for just the second time,” Chen said. “He just made the switch to public forum, so we knew that we didn’t have a ton of experience, but we were also confident in our abilities.” 

Chen thinks Sidwell likely fared better in the tournament this year because they had more of a presence than last time. The debate club sent twelve teams to the Harvard tournament, a notable increase from the seven that  attended last year.  “Even though you’re working with just one partner, it really is a team activity. [The] whole team is working together on prep, so just having a larger team makes a big difference,” said Chen.

Seniors Myles King and Finn Peters also advanced to the elimination rounds. They were double-octa finalists, earning them a bid to attend the silver division at the Tournament of Champions (TOC) on April 20 in Lexington, Kentucky.

Sophomore Hani Garside, who competed at both Harvard and Metrofinals in public forum, is also fully qualified for the gold division at TOC after receiving two gold bids throughout the season. He and his partner, sophomore Alex Fagell, received their first gold bid independently by reaching the quarterfinals at the Laird Lewis tournament in North Carolina and the second after reaching the quarterfinals at the George Mason University (GMU) Patriot Games Invitational. 

Garside and Fagell will be one of two public forum pairings registered to compete at Gold TOC.

“We have a prep group with… teams from around the country. We work to make responses to the most common arguments,” said Garside. “We also do several practice rounds every day. We’re also working with two coaches — one Sidwell alumna and one external debater to help us prepare for the tournament.” 

Garside is looking forward to participating in the TOC, which has historically included very few sophomore pairings in the public forum pool. “[T]here’s not many sophomore teams around the country who actually qualified for it, so I’m looking to have some fun and have good debates,” said Garside. “I’m trying to break [into the elimination rounds], but I’m just expecting to have fun and learn a lot while I’m there.”

In March, the team competed in the local debate league’s end-of-year tournament, the  Washington-Arlington Catholic Forensic League Metrofinals. Several debaters in the tournament qualified for NCFL Grand National, which will be held in May in Chicago, Illinois. 

“I was very pleased with our performance at Metros,” said Downes. “I believe we’re going to have two students debating in the Congressional debate format. We will also have three teams attending for public forum, and I believe we had two teams qualify in the policy debate format — I think that’s an excellent result.”

Downes added that the debaters will have ample practice against strong teams in preparation for the upcoming TOC and NCFL Grand Nationals. “I’m workshopping cases with [the debaters]. They do all the heavy lifting as far as researching and briefing their own cases,” Downes explained, “But I will also be working with them on answering certain kinds of arguments that you only see at the higher levels, or at least that you only more frequently see at the higher levels of debate in public forum.”

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