Debaters Kick Off 2021 With a Bang—and Earn Impressive Results
Although 2021 has only just begun, Branksome’s talented student debaters are at it again. Competing in four tournaments over the past four weeks, the virtual platform was no match for these determined groups, who returned with impressive results in all categories.
Led by Debate Coaches Grace Nolan, Owen Williams, Disha Mittal and Georgia Samuel, the group’s hard work paid off, as they debated skillfully, and presented on timely topics, ranging from the decline of U.S. democracy, to food deserts (geographic areas where residents’ access to affordable, healthy food options is restricted or nonexistent due to the absence of grocery stores within convenient travelling distance) in Toronto.
Here’s the rundown of the four competitions:
Senior Provincial Public Speaking Championships From February 26-28, Branksome sent a remarkable six teams to the Senior Provincial Public Speaking Championships, in both the English and Bilingual categories. Our six teams made up the largest school contingent at the tournament.
In the English category, Hao and Elizabeth finished 9th overall, and Maylee and Amonda finished 5th. As a result, Maylee and Amonda have qualified for online nationals to be held from April 16-18. Individually, Maylee was 3rd speaker and Amonda was 5th.
“In the Bilingual category, the team of Clé Clé and Mare finished 8th — quite an achievement as Clé Clé has never debated before in her life!” said Ms. Nolan. “We're hoping they will earn a spot in French Nationals. We first need to see how many teams Ontario will be allocated.”
Junior Provincial Public Speaking Championships That same weekend, Mr. Williams, Ms. Samuel and Ms. Mittal took four students to the Junior Provincial Public Speaking Championships. In persuasive speaking, Miranda finished 10th for her speech about the decline of U.S. democracy, Annie finished 6th for her speech on food deserts in Toronto and Grace won the persuasive category for her speech on the Pink Tax.
“In terms of overall results, Grace finished 10th in the province and has qualified for the Junior National Public Speaking Championships,” said Ms. Nolan.
Womxn and Gender Minority Debate The following week, March 6-7, Ms. Samuel chaperoned four teams to compete in the first-ever Hart House Womxn and Gender Minority Debate tournament. “As it was a smaller tournament, Mr. Williams, Ms. Samuel and I used this as a mentoring opportunity for newer and more experienced debaters,” said Ms. Nolan. The team of Grade 11 students Jae and Sile (Nicole) made it to the quarter finals and finished 8th place overall. The school’s youngest team — the Grade 8 team of Apple and Megan — finished 9th in the Novice category.
“Individually, all the debaters finished in the top half out of 128 speakers, including Jae who finished 13th, Nicole 21st and Camellia — who never debated before in her life - finished 27th out of 128!” said Ms. Nolan. In the Novice category, Megan was the 10th place speaker.
Harvard World Schools Debate Invitational This past weekend, March 19-21, Branksome competed for the first time at the Harvard World Schools Debate Invitational. “This is an incredibly competitive tournament, as it's one of the preparation tournaments for the World Schools Debating Championships this summer,” said Ms. Nolan.
National teams from Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Pakistan, China, Croatia and Denmark and school representation from Canada, the U.S., Zimbabwe, Malaysia, South America and the U.K. (Eton College) attended the competition. Branksome sent five teams to compete, and the team of Hao, Elizabeth and Natasha made it all the way to the round of 32 out of 188 teams.
“Given that a number of these teams had private or national team coaching, it's an amazing accomplishment for a school team,” said Ms. Nolan. “There were only four schools represented in the round of 32 and we were one of them. Not only does this speak to the depth of our teams, but also their resilience and ability to adapt to new settings.”
The Debate Coaches are certainly proud of how well our students competed, given the impact of the pandemic on the usual debate competition process.
“While I wish we will get back to in-person debating and public speaking sooner rather than later, I'm so happy we can give our students a platform to compete,” said Ms. Nolan.