Freshmen compete at state, novice tournaments

Novice debater Cameron Cohen ’16 competed at the California High School Speech Association Debate Tournament at West Ranch High School in Santa Clarita, the first time any Harvard-Westlake team member has qualified for the tournament. Cohen debated from April 19 to April 20.

Cohen did not reach the elimination round but was one of only six who represented the Los Angeles District.

“I was working for weeks to prepare for this tournament but the work doesn’t directly pay off as much because it’s a different kind of debate,” Cohen said.”It’s more random.”

Cohen previously won the Top Speaker Award and First Place Overall at The Novice National Tournament in Atlanta, from March 22 to March 24. There, Nick Steele ’16 advanced to the semifinals and took fourth place. Cohen and Steele traveled with six other freshman teammates. Approximately 50 students from California, Texas, Nevada, Minnesota, New York and Massachusetts attended the tournament.

At the Novice National Tournament, Cohen’s first round started at 8 a.m., with four 40-minute rounds occurring each day. Although it was an individual tournament, Cohen and Steele practiced debating with their team which is coached by Mike Bietz and Nate Zerbib-Berda. Julius Pak ’12, a student at University of Chicago, joined the team at the tournament to help prep the team.

Cohen first started debating in seventh grade when Tommy Choi ’14, his ‘Big Sib’ in the Big Sibs program, told him about the debate program.

“Everyone always told me I was super argumentative and that it would be perfect for me,” Cohen said.

Cohen debated on the merits of rehabilitation versus retribution in the US Criminal Justice System.

Cohen was awarded First Place Overall by winning all his elimination rounds. In addition, he also received the Top Speaker Award. The Top Speaker Award is granted to the speaker with the highest average of points earned each round. Judges look for quality of argument, organization and strategy when awarding points.

“I was really excited,” Cohen said. “The whole team and I have been working really hard the whole year, and I wanted to put everything into this tournament as it was the last tournament of the year.”