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Whitman hosts first national debate tournament, local officials judge final rounds

By Hannah Storey

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The speech and debate team hosted its first national tournament this weekend, the Beltway Invitational. The tournament featured two types of debate: student Congress, modeled after the U.S. Congress, and Lincoln-Douglas, a one-on-one philosophical debate. Students from over 25 high schools nationwide participated in the tournament.

Members of the Whitman speech and debate team posed with Representative Chris Van Hollen after the final round Sunday. Photo by Stephanie Haven.

On Saturday, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, former Representative Jim Moody and World Bank economic advisor Shahid Yusuf judged the final round of student Congress debate. While no Whitman students participated in the final round, team members who typically participated in Congress, including seniors Ross Slaughter and Amar Mukunda, organized this section of the tournament.

Senior Taz Sella, who attends Carroll High School in Texas, won the Congress tournament. In Lincoln-Douglas, senior twins Jeff and Larry Liu, who attend Indian Springs High School in Alabama, won first and second place.

In addition to the tournament, Whitman hosted a Lincoln Douglas round robin. Unlike the tournament, competitors had to be invited to debate in the round robin tournament. Each of these debaters competed in four rounds. Seniors Alex Zimmermann and Daniel Imas placed fourth and seventh.

By the end of the day, the two debaters with the best records became co-champions and participated in a final round adjudicated by judge Leonie Brinkema, Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, Maryland District Attorney Rod Rosenstein, judge Jane Roth and Maryland Representative Chris Van Hollen.

Senior Marshall Thompson and senior Ben Sprung-Keyser, who attends Harvard-Westlake High School in California, debated in the final round where they discussed whether juveniles charged with felonies should be tried and prosecuted as adults in the American criminal justice system.

The final round was formatted differently than most Lincoln-Douglas debates. The debaters’ statement times were reduced, the debaters spoke slower and the judges were given the chance to ask the debaters questions.

“The level of knowledge that these kids have is fantastic,” Van Hollen said. “Both debaters were really top notch. It was really fun to be able to participate.”

Coach Ari Parker attributed much of the tournament’s success to the students and parents who helped put the event together, and the debaters from other schools.

“Our outside assistance was incredibly helpful, we couldn’t have done this without them,” Parker said. “We had some fantastic competition this weekend. Everyone did a great job.”

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The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School
Whitman hosts first national debate tournament, local officials judge final rounds