Debate and Snow


Debate is in some senses a contradiction, an activity that defies categorization. Students practice, compete in tournaments against other schools, represent their school, and get college scholarships for their success in ways usually reserved for sports teams, yet debate isn't a sport, doesn't take place outside, and isn't taken as seriously by many administrators and budget writers (as we witness sports teams from DC Public High Schools flying across the U.S. for weeks on end).

Regardless of how you categorize it, Debate tournaments are still often at the whims of the weather. This past weekend was a snowy affair, with winter officially announcing its arrival with significant (for the D.C. area) snowfall.

Prince George's County canceled all activities this past weekend, including the buses that would allow students to compete, because of the icy conditions. The tournament went on, with more food than we knew what to do with (couldn't scale back our lunch order to account for the 75 teams from Prince George's County no longer able to attend), and a hardy crew of driven students from D.C. schools that showed up despite the snow. I was heartened by the number of students, parents, and schools that reached out to see if they could compete anyway, despite the snow.

For the tournament staff, this small tournament was a welcome relaxing day. No need for meal tickets (we wanted the students to take as much as they wanted, and make sure the food we ordered got eaten), complex pairings, or the million other things that go into running large tournaments. 50 teams still competed across 3 divisions as the snow fell, and many students stood out in the smaller crowd.

As usual, the team of Lowenstein and Almendarez won the Varsity Division. These girls haven't lost during the 1st semester of competition in WUDL tournaments, and will begin traveling to larger, regional competition to find worthy opponents.

Alice Deal's Bell and Filmer made their Varsity debut, and held their own in a small division. They took 4th place, and both students took home speaker awards.

Also in the Varsity Division, Capital City's Paxton and Munsat took 5th place. 7th graders who usually compete in the JV division, they were informed during breakfast they were moving up to prevent a bye round in both divisions. With perhaps half an hour of prep, they rose to the challenge, and took home some hardware. They'll be ready for the Varsity division proper by mid-spring, and represent incredible talents, given their age.

Washington Latin's Person and Lewis took home trophies in the JV Division, a well deserved victory as the division's most experienced (and close to the youngest) participants.

In the Novice Division, Capital City's Villaflor set a record I doubt we'll see broken any time soon--the youngest debater ever to win a trophy. Villaflor took home the 5th place speaker award as a 5th grader. Originally told to sit in the back of the room while his older sister attended debate practice, he was quickly recruited onto the team (a better use of his time than sitting in the back and doodling).

EL Haynes and Browne EC, both new programs this fall, took home a lot of hardware. Coach Moore and Coach Cole have put in a lot of hard work, and their students are starting to shine. Both schools should have a good amount of their squad ready for the JV division by mid spring.

At Banneker, this tournament represented a bit of a changing of the guard, as many upper classmen are less able to debate given the rigors of college applications and the dreaded IB program. Banneker continued to be one of the teams to beat in the WUDL, as underclassmen picked up an array of hardware in the Novice and JV Division. Coach Zigmond always does a great job recruiting and training new students and fitting debate into the rigorous schedule of her students.

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