LCHS Debate Team Advances to ‘Elite 8’

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La Cañada High School’s Speech and Debate Team will be one of only eight schools represented in New York City on May 5-7 at the 16th annual Brewer Foundation/New York University International Public Policy Forum.
After nearly a year of national, essay-based competition, LCHS has made it from 264 teams in the first round to 64 to 32 to 16 to eight teams.
The final eight entrants earn an all-expense-paid trip to the finals in New York, where they will engage in oral and written debate against an international field on the topic, “Resolved: The obligation to provide safe haven for refugees should outweigh a government’s right to control its borders.”
The Spartan squad — which includes Alex Zhao, Abigail Lidar, Sonia Vaze and William Choi — will compete against teams from the United States and abroad, including from Beijing and Taiwan, as well as Colorado, Connecticut, Kentucky, Nevada and Pennsylvania.
On the line for the IPPF World Champion: a $10,000 grand prize, which will be split evenly between the school and the team, Zhao said.
Zhao said LCHS had made it as far as the top 16 a year ago, in what was its third year of participating.
“It’s really amazing to me that we’ve made it this far,” said Zhao, a senior who will compete individually in the Tournament of Champions national debate final in Kentucky. “A lot of people think that debate is subjective and they’re correct in that who the judge is and how they’re feeling that day makes a big difference, but after three or four years learning how this event works and refining how we write our essays, that work has been reflected.”
In this year’s “Sweet 16,” LCHS defeated Jasper High School, from Plano, Texas, to advance. In the quarterfinals, the Spartans will debate duPont Manual High School of Louisville.

— Mirjam Swanson

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