Junior debaters win top national rankings

Led by two nationally- ranked juniors, the debate team consistently earned top results this year as tournaments increased in difficulty throughout the season.

Cameron Cohen ’16 and Nick Steele ’16 consistently placed in the top five juniors at national events.

Cohen, who began debating as a seventh grader, finished second in the Harvard Round Robin and reached the quarterfinals at the Harvard Tournament, comprised of the top eight out of 300 debaters at the event.

He also attended the Voices Tournament, a nationally distinguished invitational.

At the Voices Tournament, he and Steele closed out their respective round robins, and were named co-champions of the round robin.

“We worked super hard preparing for the round robin and tournament to compete against a lot of kids we really respect, and it was super rewarding to see our results paying off,” Cohen said.

At the Greenhill Invitational, one of the most prestigious tournaments for high school debaters, widely regarded as one of the most difficult tournaments, Cohen was invited to the round robin and reached the octofinals in tournament competition.

Steele reached the finals at Voices Tournament and was in the semifinals at the Meadows and Stanford Tournaments.

Several debaters from Harvard-Westlake went to the National Debate Coaches Association tournament, one of the two biggest national tournaments of the year.

Cohen, Steele and Connor Engel ’17 reached the octofinals, and Kevin Wesel ’17 reached the double octofinals, one round before the octofinals.

“NDCA was a tournament that I wanted to get into at the beginning of the year,” Engel said. “It went better than I expected. I didn’t think I was going to get to any elimination round so I was happy that I made the octofinals.”

Steele and Cohen qualified for the Tournament of Champions, the most important national tournament.

Each had five of the necessary two top performances, known as bids, at big tournaments during the season.

Both finished with a 4-3 record in the opening rounds, one win short of advancing to the elimination rounds.

Engel was a double octofinalist at the Stanford University Tournament, and he was the runner-up at the Silver and Black Invitational Tournament at Alta High School.

His second-place finish at Alta earned him one bid for the Tournament of Champions, but he failed to win a second bid and thus came up short in qualifying for the tournament.

Engel and Steele were invited to compete in the California Round Robin, where Steele won third place.

New debaters Evan Engel ’17 and Liz Yount ’17 also competed at the varsity level as sophomores on the team.

At the Cal Invitational Tournament, eighth and ninth grade debaters, known as novices, competed at the varsity level for the first time in their careers at a national circuit tournament.

Indu Pandey ’17 went 4-2 in the prelims and was a few speaker points shy of advancing. Nick Platt ’18, Will Berlin ’19 and Matthew Gross ’18 went 3-3.

Steele was named double octofinalist, and Connor and Evan Engel were named triple octofinalists.

“All of them worked hard and did better than I would have expected,” Coach Mike Bietz said. “Every first-year debater achieved at least one win. It’s also worth noting that Evan Engel has been competing in varsity at a number of tournaments, and he is just a first-year debater.”

 

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