Top Effort by Speech/Debate

Some students who are not enrolled in summer school this year have nonetheless been hanging around the speech and debate classroom at San Marino High School. They include Joey Kiang and Noah Wilson, who will be seniors next year and have a vested interest in what is transpiring between those walls.
“The kids are working on what they’re going to be doing for next year,” Wilson said early one morning last week, adding, with a gleam in his eye, “There are a couple who are going to be good at this.”
As seniors next year, Kiang will be president of the speech and debate team, while Wilson will be interpretation captain. They’re not getting any class credit this summer, nor are they receiving any kind of stipend for coaching the underclassmen. They just want to guide, critique and encourage younger students to improve their skills.
And that tells you all you need to know about the speech and debate team at San Marino High School. It has every justification to rest on its laurels, yet is not content to do so.
SMHS achieved the top 10 in the United States at the National Speech & Debate Association Tournament earlier this month in Salt Lake City. A team of 11 qualifying students, many of them juniors, was named one of only 10 Schools of Outstanding Distinction for its collective performance.
Wilson and teammate Anthony Ma proudly hoisted a hefty trophy outside the speech and debate classroom last week.
“This is the result of relentless hard work by some of the finest students San Marino has to offer,” said speech and debate coach Matthew Slimp, who personally took home the Double-Diamond Coaching Award. “I adore these kids.”
Here’s a rundown of the team members who made it happen:
Brian Xu: The junior reached the finals and finished fourth in extemporaneous speaking. In that round, he and five other students spoke about the Panama Papers and how the U.S. should respond to such schemes for sheltering wealth offshore. Xu spoke before thousands of people in the Grand Ballroom of the Salt Palace, and his speech was also live-streamed around the world. With his impressive finish, he automatically qualified for next year’s nationals.
Serena Wang: The senior, competing in informative speaking, also reached the finals — joining Xu in an accomplishment no SMHS team had previously achieved. A new category, informative speaking is akin to competitive teaching, and in front of that same large audience at the Salt Palace, she delivered a speech she wrote about superheroes — “a very touching, moving piece,” Slimp said, covering the history of the comic book superheroes and the real-life superheroes among us today. Wang finished sixth.
Other SMHS standouts, in alphabetical order:
Kiang: In international extemporaneous speaking, he missed breaking from the preliminaries to an elimination round by two points. But this was his first trip to the nationals, and was important for someone who was elected by his peers as president of the 2016-17 team. “He got the opportunity to demonstrate his leadership qualities, holding the team together,” Slimp said.
Nathan Lam: The senior joined teammate Annie Wang in public forum debate, but they were disappointed that they failed to break out of the preliminary rounds. Undaunted, however, Lam, came back the next day and entered the supplemental event of extemporaneous debate. He debated for two consecutive days and survived six break rounds before being eliminated. Lam, president of SMHS’ 2015-16 speech and debate team, received a glass victory cup for having qualified for nationals in all four years of his high school career.
Kenneth Lin: In Lincoln Douglas debate, the junior missed advancing to the preliminary rounds by a single ballot count. “He performed extremely well, especially considering this was his first trip to nationals,” Slimp said. “He just missed it, but had a great attitude about it.”
Win Mordecai: The senior was named captain of the world schools debate team for San Marino’s district. It’s a challenging responsibility, because of the way training and experience level vary from school to school, “but I thought he did a fine job of trying to inspire and galvanize all of them to do as well as they could,” Slimp said.
Wilson: The junior was only two points from breaking into an elimination round in dramatic interpretation, which was considered a solid showing for someone competing at his first nationals in an intensely competitive event. Wilson remarked that he feels pretty good about being “64th out of 250,” and has already begun work on his performance for next year.
Annie Wang: She, like Lam, was disappointed not to have a better result in public forum debate, but this senior, who was one of the platform captains last year, can hold her head high. “Annie is a wonderful speaker, and she really balances Nathan well in terms of their personalities,” Slimp said. “He’s a more aggressive debater. She’s more persuasive and charismatic.”
Kirk Wu: The junior lasted until round eight in Lincoln Douglas debate, which contributed to SMHS’ success. He will be the team’s debate captain next year, and will bring to that responsibility his strong debating skills and even stronger work ethic, according to his coach.
Britney Yip: Joining teammate Serena Wang in informative speaking, this junior gave SMHS a strong one-two punch in the event. She reached the quarterfinal round, which put her in elite company — top 30 in the nation.

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