The Jesuit debate team ended the first semester strong, shining at tournaments around the city, state, and country. In mid-November, Jesuit debate team members showed the national competition their will to win and continue succeeding at Glenbrooks High School in Chicago.

At the Glenbrooks tournament, the team of Adam Wiechman ’15 and Bennett Harrison ’15 won five of their debates and only lost two. The teams of Patrick Bender ’16 and Chandler Dawson ’15, and Joe Hall ’16 and Jake LoRocco ’17, won three debates and lost four.

Bender said the opportunity to face debate teams at the national Glenbrooks tournament helped him and his partner Chandler Dawson ’15 “approach nontraditional and nonstandard affirmatives,” referring to the myriad of possible different plans a debater can present in his or her first speech. “It was an educational experience.” The 3-4 finish for the team of Bender and Dawson was a strong feat for a national tournament—and Bender’s first tournament outside the Dallas circuit this year.

Hall also was glad to participate because “[Glenbrooks] has some of the best competition across the country, and it’s regarded to be the top 200 teams in the country competing,” he said. “Jake and I have done progressively better at our past tournaments, and everything adds up and makes you better at debate.”

Those sentiments proved true as the teams of Hall-LoRocco and Harrison-Wiechman went to a large national tournament held at the University of Texas at Austin on the weekend of December 6. The logistics for the UT tournament make it notably one of the most difficult of the year as debates are held until late Friday night and begin again early Saturday morning. “It’s sort of a death march on the first Friday after three o’clock,” Hall shared, explaining the delays common at the UT tournament. Hall and LoRocco went 4-2 at the tournament, their best record at a national tournament this year.

Mr. Dan Lingel, junior counselor and one of the debate coaches, beamed with pride about the debate team’s success at UT. “We’ve had a very successful last month, we qualified a second team officially and now have three teams that have four [state qualifying points].” Two state qualifying points are awarded to debaters when they clear into the elimination rounds of a tournament, and two additional points are awarded for every round the team successfully makes it to, with the final tournament winner earning the most points. “We’ve been making some great progress at the local level and the regional and national level.”

Then Lingel spoke to the success of senior team Harrison-Wiechman: “Adam [Wiechman] and Bennett [Harrison] made it to the top ten, Adam was the tenth best individual speaker out of almost three hundred debaters. I think they’re positioning themselves nicely compared to other teams in the country.”

On the local level, the debate team performed well at the local Creekview tournament on December 6. For Alandro Valdez ’17, Creekview was an exciting tournament because it marked his first time clearing to the elimination rounds at a varsity tournament. While he considered his prospects of making it to the out-rounds something that would require “a miracle” after tough losses at the Hockaday tournament in November, Creekview proved to be a much needed win that Dr. Tracy McFarland, government teacher and varsity debate coach, chalked up to “more practice speeches and hard work” to prepare for the tournament. Valdez placed third at the tournament and the team of Cobler-Valdez earned four state points, their first of the season.

Ethan Tsao ’16 earned two more state points and brought the team of Praneeth Kalva ’16 and Ethan Tsao ’16 to a total of four state points. “We cleared at Creekview and lost in the first elimination round, giving us two points,” he said. To get to that point, Ethan said he had improved significantly from his past performance at his past tournament. “We were a lot more organized in our speeches and how we went about answering things,” he said. “We were a lot more efficient than we were at Hockaday.”

Overall, the debate team has seen their success as a good starting point into the second semester, and with two teams already qualified for the state tournament and many on their way, they see a bright road to the state tournament in 2015, despite Texas’ state tournament being “the hardest state in the country to qualify for.”