Taft Debate Team Places In The Top 20 Speakers

Mia Naples

Taft Debate Rookies bring home the gold on their first tournament of the season on October 21. 

Recently, Taft’s rookie debate team consisted of 30% of the Top 20 speakers out of 92 individuals competing in the Novice division tournament. Students winning the Top 20 speaker award include Payton Johnson ranking 17th place, Clark Schurman ranking 12th place, Matthew Gustafson ranking 11th place, Alexandra Byoke ranking 10th place, Hugo Gehant, 8th place, Phoebe Tozer ranking 1st place. 

Phoebe Tozer joined the debate team out of curiosity and gained 1st place out of 92 individuals.

“I specifically got first place for individual speakers, which means I got the most speaker points. Speaker points are given a little bit differently based on the judge. Some give them for eloquence, others creativity, manners or technique. Basically I talked good and the judges liked it,” said sophomore Phoebe Tozer via email.

The debaters switch off from the affirmative and the negative side. The affirmative side is where the team supports the topic and the negative side is speaking against the topic. Each round, the side a debater gets is randomized letting them argue both sides of the topics.

“Our debaters did an excellent job at selecting their arguments, and taking notes during the round so that they could show the judges why their evidence was better. They argued skillfully and spoke with great passion during their rounds,” said debate team coach Jonathan Cohen via email.

The debate team’s topic this year is about Criminal Justice Reform. Every tournament they will have will be solely off topics within the criminal justice system. The rookies gained help from junior Layan Nazzal coaching them. 

Nazzal has been in debate for three years and is currently dedicating this year to training and coaching the new debaters. She doesn’t have anyone in her division. 

“This past weekend was the novices first tournament and they did really well. They had this ah-ha moment and everything clicked for them,” said Nazzal.

Due to COVID-19, the debate team meets online. The monthly tournaments run through a main taft team google meet with the coaches there in between the rounds. During the rounds they break off with their partners into separate meets with the judge and the other team. 

The debate team meets twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays after school.  The next debate tournament will take place on November 13th and November 14th where Taft will be against The Blue Conference with Von Steuben, Lincoln Park, and Pritzker Noble School.