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Claremont speech and debate takes top spots in national competition

Typically, one would expect that ballrooms be used for dancing. The ballrooms at Bonaventure Resort and Spa in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, however, were used for debating the week of June 17.

Ten exhausted Claremont students from Claremont High School’s Speech and Debate team returned from Florida after a week of participating in the 2018 National Speech & Debate Tournament in Fort Lauderdale.

Out of the 11 students from Claremont who qualified to go to nationals, 10 attended the event. Sophomores Alex Abarca, Melissa Glover, Siddarth Gummadi, Angelo Thomas, juniors Faith Nishimura, Kenneth Park, Joshua Sanchez, Jack Xiao, and seniors Sanjar Junisbai, Ashton Ngiam and Alexandra Rivasplata qualified this year.

In a competitive pool of more than 3,500 students who attend the tournament every year, Jack Xiao was an octa-finalist in original oratory, Angelo Thomas was a semifinalist in extemporaneous debate and Melissa Glover was a semifinalist in congress.

Octa-finalist and team captain Jack Xiao performed exceptionally while delivering his self-written speech, “Unfiltered;” sadly, he was only one place away and just barely missed the breaks for the top 30 in his category.

Semifinalist Angelo Thomas was undefeated in seven rounds straight in extemporaneous debate, and destroyed his competition one-by-one before he stumbled across his first loss.

“Some of us thought he was never going to stop,” said Melissa Glover.

Melissa, Claremont’s student congress captain, made it to the semifinals in congress, in which students role-play as representatives from the House of Representatives and senators of the United States.

“I was extremely shocked to see I had made it as far as I did this year,” she said. “Last year at the same tournament, other competitors from my rounds last year ended up second and third place in the nation. It was a dream of mine to even make it to semifinals.”

California is not very well known for its speech or debate in the national tournament. Competitors from the Golden State usually do not make it to the final rounds, but this year was different. Three out of four interpretation events included competitors from California.

At the tournament, many individuals from Claremont had outstanding performances, and each person utilized their strengths to work as a team and achieve a successful year.

“As a team, Claremont did much better than last year,” Melissa said. “We qualified more people and our team definitely grew in strength.”

The CHS speech and debate team also reclaimed its title as league champions this year and, according to Melissa, this victory will motivate them to work even harder next year.

When the students were not aggressively debating against each other and vying for the winner’s spot, they bonded with their roommates—often students from other schools—over topics such as college options, their love for cooking, the Exploding Kittens card game and the popular televisions series, The Bachelorette.

This year marks Claremont’s eighth year at the National Speech & Debate Tournament.

—Eden Yu