Stuyvesant Speech and Debate Team Competes in Kentucky for the National Catholic Forensics Tournament

Stuyvesant Speech and Debate Team (S&D) heads to Kentucky for one of their final tournaments of the year.

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The Stuyvesant Speech and Debate (S&D) Team competed in the National Catholic Forensic League (NCFL) Grands Tournament from May 27 to May 28 in Louisville, Kentucky. Nine different Speech and Debate events competed, having won 18 entries into the tournament at an earlier regional competition at Stuyvesant in March.

Some notable achievements earned by Stuy students are as follows. In Speech, sophomore Eli Lifton made it to the semifinals of Declamation, senior Melia Moore made it to the octofinals of Dramatic Performance, and junior Erica Liu made it to the octofinals of Oral Interpretation. In Extemporaneous speaking, junior Kai Xuan Li made it to the octofinals, and juniors Eshaal Ubaid and Aleksey Olkhovenko made it to the quarterfinals. In Public Forum, sophomores Helen Mancini and Astrid Harrington made it to double octofinals. Finally, in Congress, junior William Tang made it to the semifinals.

Students saw this tournament as especially significant, as it was one of the final major tournaments of this year. “It was [considered] a much bigger deal among the administrators because it was a national tournament. Because it was all varsity and everyone qualified to be there, I think it was more extravagant,” Mancini said. “There was a different vibe in the team. People were more excited for this one because it was nationals and it was so far away.”

However, as a national tournament, there was a lot of pressure and anxiety among the team to perform well. “Since it was like nationals, of course, there's a kind of pressure that's being put on you to do well. And obviously, the people who are competing there are also much better than your average tournament,” sophomore Daniel Zheng said. 

Many overcame challenges, including facing a large number of untrained judges over the course of the tournament, impacting formats that require a higher level of skill for their judging pool. “I know that in policy debate, there were parents judging, which was kind of ridiculous because you have to be like a trained judge to be able to judge for policy. So there were some judges who shouldn’t have been judging in some debate categories,” freshman Audrey Hilger said.

Even English teacher and Faculty Advisor of S&D Julie Sheinman felt that some of the judges were relatively underqualified. “Some of the judging was really incompetent, especially in policy debate. They sent out an e-mail saying that they were short of policy judges. Anybody that had never judged, but had judged speech, they wanted to put them in and so they did and I think that was very unfair to the kids who got those judges,” Sheinman said.

The relatively small number of judges during elimination rounds also contributed to a sense of unfairness. “One critique that I had that I can understand is in my semifinals round, I got only three judges, which I feel like wasn’t enough to make a super fair round,” Lifton said.

Some also felt that the organization of the tournament was tight regarding time. “For debate, you had to wake up at 6:30 a.m., take the 6:50 a.m. bus and [...] waking up early for that and debating and speaking early in the day when you’ve just woken up, it’s not easy for you to do,” Tang said. “Some students weren’t able to give two speeches whereas some students gave two speeches [...] and if you’re a competitor and you only give one speech and there are other people who gave two speeches, obviously you’re gonna get ranked lower than them. So I think allotting proper time, like enough time so that everyone could give two speeches would’ve been better.”

Despite the issues that occurred, the tournament was nonetheless a successful and helpful opportunity for the team. “We as a team are really thankful and grateful for [S&D Head Coach and Executive Director Julie] Sheinman sending us to CatNats [Catholic Nationals Tournament] and [...] supporting us along the way and helping us out,” Zheng said.

At the end, the tournament was a great chance to meet new people and observe new styles of S&D. “It was a valuable [chance] to see the different perspectives, see how people from across the United States of America, different states compete and how they can bring their own unique version of Speech and Debate to the tournament,” Tang said.