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Debate Team Dominates

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It’s no secret that the success of the Friars is known not just in the Oak Park area, but across the country. And over this Presidents’ Day weekend, the Fenwick Debate team spread the success even further. From Friday, February 16th to Monday, February 19th, the team, took their annual trip to the Harvard National Debate Tournament in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
This tournament brings together some of the most dedicated, passionate young speakers that can be found in our nation’s high schools. All three categories of debate, (Congress, Lincoln-Douglas, and Public Forum) had Fenwick students competing at Harvard. It is currently the largest and is certainly one of the most prestigious speech and debate tournaments in the country.
Every year, students from Fenwick and from high schools all over the United States travel to this weekend long tournament to debate relevant and challenging topics. This year, the Public Forum topic concerned abolishing the capital gains tax, and the Lincoln-Douglas topic dealt with the concept of plea bargaining in the United States criminal justice system.
Arguing these topics is no easy task, yet most of the students attending this prestigious competition know financial policy and basic criminal law procedure like the back of their hand. According to Harvard professor Danxi Shen, “Debate improves students’ listening and public speaking skills, and also opens opportunities to develop oral communication skills, creativity, and empathy.”
Most Fenwick debaters can take advantage of these opportunities not only at tournaments, but when they’re arguing against each other in their many practice rounds prior to large competitions such as Harvard’s. In the weeks leading up to the Harvard National Debate Tournament, students prepare speeches and arguments in their respective categories and students are then pitched in head-to-head debate rounds against some of the best debate teams and speakers in the nation.
With over 1700 students and 426 judges participating in the 3 divisions of debate, the competition was fierce. All our Friars did exceptionally well, with Senior Captain Gabrielle Cone earning a spot as quarter finalist in her category of Congressional Debate. The other seniors that led the team were Maricela Griffin, Jay Miller, Ryan Lavin, Alyssa Sugay, Vicky Govea, Andrei Nelson, and Bryan Miller, with scores of juniors and underclassmen who did a fantastic job of representing Fenwick, especially with the steep competition that the tournament is known for generating.
Senior Ryan Lavin had an optimistic comment on this year’s events: “You win some, you lose some, but it’s really okay because we had some really good burgers.”
Sophomore Conor Mulcahy described the weekend as “a great time and a wonderful learning experience to get to debate with some of the best national circuit debaters in the country and beyond.” Mulcahy, along with Gabrielle Cone, is the captain of Fenwick’s Congressional Debate Team.
Head Debate coach Mr. Wieckiewicz, Assistant Coach Mr. Jerger and Speech Coach Mrs. Magrady accompanied the students on the trip. As the 2017-2018 speech and debate season comes to a close, the team can look back on successful tournaments and their great new experiences.
The dedication of the team is evident in their sucess at the prestigious tournament and recognition has been well-earned by these hard-working Friars.
Congratulations to those who attended the Harvard National Debate Tournament and good luck to those moving on to the IHSA Debate State Tournament, which will take place March 16th and 17th at University of Illinois at Springfield.

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Debate Team Dominates