By CARLY ZHOU
University High School sent two teams to compete at the Tournament of Champions, a national Speech and Debate event. Seniors Eric Lu and Anthony Liang represented Uni for the first time in Policy Debate, and sophomores Deven Gupta and Pranav Moudgalya competed in Silver Public Forum.
The Tournament of Champions is hosted annually by the University of Kentucky, and was held in an online format this year due to social-distancing guidelines with COVID-19.
Moving to an online format this year featured the debates being held virtually through Zoom.
“I definitely preferred last year’s TOC because it was in person, and so you are able to meet people across the country and spend time talking to them on the tournament campus,” said Gupta. “I have made many great friends through tournaments, so I was sad when I heard TOC was going to be moved online because that meant I would not be able to see them during the tournament.”
Besides the competition itself being held virtually compared to past years, the new online format for debating posed a mixed bag of challenges and benefits.
“It felt nice being able to stay at home and debate with Deven; a “home field” advantage of sorts” said Mougdalya. “Napping between rounds was definitely a plus and it was a great experience spending quality time with my debate partner.”
Certain aspects of the online format could be used to competitors’ advantage.
“The online format felt better in some ways,” said Gupta, “as it allowed greater communication between my partner (Pranav) and myself in-round, as we could easily mute ourselves so that we could talk to each other about strategy without being heard by the other team.
On the other hand, an online format posed challenges in communication and other factors during debate.
“Face to face contact is extremely important in leveraging persuasion during cross examination and speeches,” said Liang. “Getting rid of that element makes adjudicating speaker points a lot harder.”
Lu and Liang were eliminated in the preliminaries, while Gupta and Moudgalya managed to place in the octa final round. Moudgalya was also awarded a Top 20 Individual Speaker award.
As of 2020, this online tournament culminated the academic Speech & Debate season for many. For seniors Eric Lu and Anthony Liang, this is their last year competing.
“It is with earnest nostalgia and woeful emotions that I conclude a huge chapter of my life,” said Liang. “I couldn’t have felt more grateful and fitting to celebrate my 18th debating at the Zoom TOC. These four years of policy debate were filled with unforgettable laughter, militant research, and an amazing community.”