A Look Back on The 2020-21 West Debate Season

Noah Rice

The West High Debate program capped off their excellent 2020-21 season by winning the 6A State Speech and Debate tournament on March 13th. A winning culture has emerged within the program, so a season filled with success wasn’t surprising. I wanted to take a look at the team’s achievements this year and also ask what makes West such a successful debate school. We’ll get the answers from West Debate Policy Captain Hanna Rice, (who also happens to be this writer’s sister.)

The season’s achievements started off strong with Adelaide Parker breaking to the semifinals in Extemporaneous speaking and Declamation at the Jack Howe Memorial tournament. She would move on to Finals in Declamation. Olivia Hoffman also made it to the semifinals at the same tournament in the Congress event. This was a great way to start the season and develop winning momentum. A few weeks later waves were made at the Young Lawyers Tournament when Policy team Ethan Wall and Taisei Summerhays reached the finals, Policy teams Marianne Liu and Cleo Shaw and Saathvik Pai and Ishan Sharma got to the semifinals, and the Public Forum team Liu/Taussky made it to the quarterfinals.

A month later, Policy team Sterling Peterson and Ishan Sharma would take first place at the UDCA tournament with a record of 5-1. Olivia Hoffman took second place in Congress at UDCA as well. The national high school coaches poll, which ranks Policy debate teams from all across the country was released on November 19th, and West Team Hanna Rice and Madeline Galian ranked 13th! In early December, Sterling Peterson, Taisei Summerhays, Henry Zheng, Hanna Rice, Adelaide Parker, and Madeline Galian were granted the Academic All American National Speech and Debate Association Award.

In early January, Policy team Galian/Rice won the Arizona State Hugh Downs Invitational Tournament, and a week later Public Forum team Daphne Liu and Noa Taussky won the Copper Classic Tournament, with Amrita Krishna, Cash Mendenhall, and Olivia Hoffman all taking second in Lincoln Douglas, Foreign Extemporaneous speaking, and Congress (In order). Saathvik Pai and Seiji Aoki got to the finals in the Policy event, and Ethan Wall and Taisei Summerhays reached the semifinals in Policy.

At the UC Berkeley Tournament, Adelaide Parker reached Quarterfinals in Extemporaneous speaking, and Galian/Rice made it to the Semifinals in Policy. Saathvik Pai and Seiji Aoki got to the finals in the Policy event, and Wall/Summerhays reached the semifinals in Policy.

As the season began to wind down, nine partnerships qualified for the National Speech & Debate Tournament. The West Program then went on to win Region (raking in 7 first place medals from Adelaide Parker, Alicia Du, Anika Rao, Amrita Krishna, Liu/Mussett Shaw, and Rice/Galian) and capped off the season by winning the 6A State Speech and Debate Tournament with 125 points. Public Forum team Lydia May and Sharayu Senthilkumar, Extemporaneous Speaker Adelaide Parker, and Policy team Madeline Galian and Hanna Rice all qualified for the Tournament of Champions, which is the most prestigious debate tournament in the country.

Now, on to a small interview with Policy Captain Hanna Rice. Looking at the success from this year and the past years, I wanted to know what the biggest contributors to the program’s success were. Rice said, “Team unity and collaboration are huge factors. The team’s motivation to succeed and wanting to represent the Utah debate circuit in a positive light also gives us an extra push.” She also credited Susan Raymond, the head debate coach, with the team’s success. “Dr. Raymond’s willingness to sign us up for many tournaments was important. We went to 53 tournaments as a school. Dr. Raymond is extremely supportive and has faith in our ability to win.”

I also asked Hanna Rice if she thought this level of success was expected to be sustained in the upcoming seasons. “I wholeheartedly believe that this program will continue to win. We have many talented students in each speech and debate event who crave victory and want to excel as they have in years prior. This, combined with the great support and coordination from Dr. Raymond will lead to a very successful team.” Although the state tournament was canceled last year due to COVID-19, West won the Region tournament which avoided cancellation and they have won every other region and state tournament from 2018-2021. This program has made winning a regular occurrence, and I guarantee that we will continue to see them succeed in the seasons to come.