Tough luck in New York: Speech and debate team doesn’t perform as hoped in Bronx competition

October 30, 2019 — by Joann Zhang and Serena Li

As the plane lifted from the runway on Thursday, Oct. 17, at 11:45 p.m., five members of the speech and debate team and coach Erick Rector sat in a row — some already asleep, some memorizing scripts for the competition to come. After a five-hour red-eye flight, the team was exhausted in advance of the Bronx competition.

The New York City Invitational Tournament was a three-day speech and debate competition that took place from Oct. 18-20, with competitors from all over the country. Seniors Ashwin Ramakrishna, Siva Sambasivam and Surbhi Bhat, as well as sophomores Harshini Velchamy and Joann Zhang competed. 

The public forum debate team, Sambasivam and Ramakrishna, began preliminary rounds on Friday, Oct. 18.

“This is the first tournament with seven-round prelims we’ve been to this year, and it’s generally a lot tougher than six rounds,” Ramakrishna said. “It was a lot more stressful for us, since it was a very competitive tournament.” 

The team won five out of seven of their preliminary rounds. But they lost their sextos round on Sunday, an elimination round where the original 211 teams had been narrowed to 32 teams, and did not advance to octofinals. 

“I’d say the tournament was pretty arduous because we traveled so late. If we did better flight scheduling, it would be a lot easier on everyone,” Ramakrishna said.

Similarly, speech students Bhat, Velchamy and Zhang did not advance to quarterfinals and dropped after five preliminary rounds. 

“Going to a tournament outside of our league provided us with a chance to watch new competitors perform and provide us with a learning experience,” Bhat said, noting that the judges’ feedback would be vital to improving speeches for future tournaments.

Ramakrishna added, “All in all, though, people enjoyed the trip, and it was a very good experience for everyone.” 

Upcoming local tournaments include the Coast Forensic League 2 competition and the Santa Clara University Dempsey-Cronin Invitational. 

“There are gonna be a lot more travel tournaments, five or so on the docket,” Ramakrishna said. “So, we’re looking towards that.”

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