Novice debate wins states

By Karina Zanyk McLean & Kayla Ouderkirk
now at dow & web editor

Link, uniqueness, turn. Most people know the meaning of these words in a normal context, but in the debate world, they take on a whole new meaning.

On Saturday Dec. 3, the DHS novice debate team won the state tournament for the first time since 2008. This is the fourth state title that they’ve won since 2004. Coach Amy Bushey is proud of the way the team worked together this year.

“I think the kids this year were some of the most dedicated kids I’ve had,” Bushey said. “It’s also the largest group of novice I’ve had.”

The team, which usually consists of about four to eight students, had a total of 12 students this year, with 11 of them going to states. The members of the novice team are Joyce Chu, Kyle Cushman, Sean Cushman, Alec Davis, Clare Elwell, William Kruper, Bridget Lawate, Andrew Malecki, Ryan Qamar, Vikram Shanker, Kayla Stryker, and Josh Zhao. In the finals, Vikram Shanker and Sean Cushman battled it out for the victory, bringing home the state novice title for DHS.

Over the years, the novice debate teams always consist of students who have never debated competitively before this season.

“The challenge this year has been to prepare so many students so they could compete at the same level,” Bushey said.

Because there were so many students this year on the novice team,
Bushey had the idea of bringing in the varsity and JV debate team members to assist in coaching. The coaches helped out by holding debate practice rounds with the novice team debating against the coaches so that the team could get better at debating at a higher level.

“We would not have gotten to where we did without [the coaches] because it’s just impossible for me to get that many kids ready,” Bushey said. “It was cool that everyone on the team participated, so even though the novices won, it was like an overall win.”

Part of the team’s success is linked to how well the team worked together.

“I think that was really the key to our success this year, kids were really focused on what we could do as a team, and less on how they were doing as an individual,” Bushey said.

The role of the coaches was to prepare everything for the novice team. This consisted of writing the arguments and anticipating the opposing team’s response in order to formulate a strategy.

“We always look for things in the case that are wrong, so if they run something that has a big gap in it, we always try to find that big gap and go for that,” junior Amanda Bishop said.

Bishop is one of the members of the varsity team who assisted coaching.

“The novices have to adapt by themselves because we don’t get to talk to them during the debate,” Bishop said. “So they have to work it out for themselves. But before the round, we can tell them what we want to get out of it.”

Sophomore Vikram Shanker shares his appreciation for JV and varsity coaching.

“The JV and varsity teams worked very hard for us to get us prepared with the evidence,” Shanker said.

This year’s novice team was structured slightly differently than most teams, since the team had so many members. The tournaments that a student competed in throughout the season depended on the player’s availability.

“When you get there, your job is for you and your partner do the best you can for the team,” Shanker said. “So really there’s not as much of a leadership system.”

Although the team members naturally assumed various roles within the team, in the end everyone worked together and gave it their all.

“Obviously there are kids that step up and are a little bit more vocal,” Shanker said. “Also, there are others that are more reserved, but it’s everyone kind of unified.”

The motivation behind a person’s involvement in debate varies by the individual. Shanker explains why he was attracted to the sport.

“I consider myself a very logical person,” Shanker said. “I think the whole idea of the competition and the thinking and the logical aspects is what I like about it.”

There are also obstacles that students have to struggle with during debates.

“Sometimes the speed of the debate can get pretty quick,” Shanker said. “So you always have to be paying attention 100 percent of the time; you can’t let your thoughts wander or anything. You need to make sure you’re understanding everything they’re saying and writing it all down so that when you get up there you can respond to all of it.”
JV, varsity and novice teams all work hard to keep debate a strong program at DHS.”

“It’s been a great season so we’re obviously doing a pretty good job,” Shanker said. “I think in the last 10 years Dow has won three state championships and made it to finals every other year, so it shows what a good job we do.”

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