The Art of Argument: Strong Showing by Groton Debate this Fall
Groton’s Debating Society took first place at a December 8 competition hosted by Buckingham Browne & Nichols School (BB&N), capping a season of impressive performances and individual accomplishments.
In the Novice category at BB&N, Rowen Hildreth ’23 took first place in Parliamentary debate; Alisa Gulyansky ’24 shared a three-way tie for second place in Impromptu Speaking; and Ayur Vallecha ’25 tied for second place in Interpretative Reading. Alisa also placed third in overall individual rankings. In the Advanced category, Jacinta Lopez ’22 shared second place in Impromptu Speaking.
Rowen and Ayur argued in favor of the debate resolution: "This House would make COVID vaccines mandatory." For interpretive reading, Ayur read a passage from The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse" by Mac Barnett. The impromptu rounds give students a choice of three topics, explained Debate Society coach and math teacher Michael Gnozzio '03—"one is usually a concrete noun, the second is usually an abstract noun, and the third is usually a quotation.” Alisa chose a quote from Nelson Mandela: "I have never cared much for personal prizes. A person does not become a freedom fighter in the hope of winning awards." Jacinta's impromptu topic was "Books."
Student debaters competed in five tournaments this fall, adapting to a virtual format. Samarth Agrawal ’21 and Steven Pang ’22 picked up first and second place rankings in individual events at the Stoneleigh-Burnham Virtual Public Speaking Tournament in early October, with Samarth placing first in After Dinner Speaking and Steven coming in second in Interpretive Reading.
At the mid-October Hotchkiss Debate and Public Speaking Tournament, Steven and Jiacheng Kang ’22 placed first among Advanced pairs in Parliamentary Debate. Jiacheng earned a further distinction as the third-place individual speaker in the debate event, and Steven's combined score across the tournament's three events earned him second place in the Advanced division overall.
At St. Paul’s School in November, Groton placed second in the overall school rankings. Brendan Pelikh ’22 and Rowen Hildreth were the first-place Affirmative Novice pair; Amy Ma ’23 and Husayn Ladha ’24 were the third-place Negative Novice pair; and Brendan, Rowen, Amy, and Husayn placed first among four-person Novice teams. Amy and Brendan tied for second in overall ranking for individual speakers in the Novice division.
"The members of the Debating Society have worked very hard this fall, and I've been thrilled to see their efforts yielding so much success," said Mr. Gnozzio. "Because of the changes to our schedule this year, we've been able to offer debate as an afternoon activity, and that's been really helpful. But it's been especially great to see the way both remote and in-person students have been able to come together for interscholastic competitions. The Society's officers this year have been fantastic about recruiting novices and have been working with them tirelessly over Zoom to get them ready for tournaments."
Students are already preparing for the next debate, at Choate in January.