Debater earns school’s first win at the Tournament of Champions


Nick Steele ’16 and Cameron Cohen ’16 read over and edit their cases in order to prepare for their debate round in the Tournament of Champions in Lexington, Kentucky. Printed with permission of Mike Bietz

Anthony Weinraub

Nick Steele ’16 won the Tournament of Champions, one of the most prestigious debate tournaments of the season, and Cameron Cohen ’16 was named a semifinalist at the tournament May 2. The tournament took place in Lexington, Ky., and it was the first win at this tournament by a Harvard-Westlake student since the debate program was restarted in 2007.

Harvard-Westlake is the first school to make it to the finals of the National Debate Coaches Association National Championships, the Woodward Academy Novice Nationals and the Tournament of Champions in the same year.

Cohen made it to the finals of the NDCA National Championships, which took place in Orlando April 8-10.

The Tournament of Champions featured 92 debaters from across the country. Debaters who earned two qualifying bids during the debate season were eligible to attend the tournament. Debaters could earn bids by performing at various national tournaments.

Steele earned eight bids and Cohen earned seven.

Steele beat Felix Tan of Clements High School in Houston in the finals on a 2-1 decision of a three-judge panel.

“It was the best ending to a debate career I could have asked for,” Steele said. “I worked for years and years to ultimately progress to this point, so winning the tournament was really surreal.”
Cohen was paired against Steele in the semifinals, but Steele advanced over Cohen due to his higher seeding. Steele was ranked sixth and Cohen was ranked seventh.

“I really did feel prepared going into the championship, and I knew we had done all of the work that we could do,” Cohen said.

This year was Steele’s and Cohen’s third time attending the tournament.

“I felt really confident in the preparation my team and I had done,” Steele said. “I was more excited to debate one more big tournament than scared to go into it.”
Connor Engel ’17, Evan Engel ’17 and Indu Pandey ’18 also attended the tournament this May.