World class

Debaters earn recognition at state, national, international levels


After the final round, the debaters gather for a picture with Thomas Ku, the team’s NYU ambassador and president of the university’s debate team, and Hockaday debate coach Dr. Chuck Walts. The team took second place in the IPPF global tournament.

By Aadya Kuruvalli, JADE Editor

Throughout the year, members of the debate team have been competing in tournaments and bringing home top awards. Debaters spend their weekends dressed in business attire, speaking in front of judges on topics of worldwide concern, often competing late into Friday night and continuing early Saturday morning.

Juniors Sanika Agarwalla, Sidney Murray, Ariana Wang, Diya Hegde, Evita Nino, and Aarnah Kurella recently won second place at the prestigious International Public Policy Forum, a competition sponsored by the Brewer Foundation and New York University. Agarwalla took home the top speaker award for her performance in the final round.

IPPF involved multiple rounds of debate beginning as early as October. However, instead of traditional oral debate, IPPF required debate teams to submit written resolutions on a specific policy topic in the “round of 64.” IPPF is the only global tournament requiring both written and oral debates.

“This year, the resolution was, ‘Is NATO an effective model for international cooperation?’” Agarwalla said. “The judges who include past champions, journalists, sociologists, politicians – will read the essays and choose 64 qualifying essays out of all of them. From then on, half the teams move forward per round.”

Written debates continue throughout the tournament until the quarterfinals. The final eight teams then go to New York City to compete in the finals.

Hockaday was one of those teams, vying for the top prize of $10,000. Although they fell just short of the grand prize, they brought home $3,500 for the debate program. In addition, Agarwalla was awarded the inaugural John E. Sexton Award

for most outstanding speaker, as chosen by the judges’ panel.

“This was the first year they were

Constance Melrose ’72, who debated at Hockaday, meets with Evita Nino, Ariana Wang, Diya Hegde, Sanika Agarwallla, Sydney Murray and Aarnah Kurella at the Harold Pratt House, the site of the IPPF tournament in New York.

awarding that – it was in honor of Dr. Sexton, who was one of the co-founders of the International Public Policy Forum,” Agarwalla said. “This award was more than just about whose arguments had better evidence because I think the speaker award shows a more human part of debate, which is how well you can connect with the judges.” The judges for the forum arrived from all over the globe; the judges’ panels for Hockaday featured the owner of the Brewer Foundation, a Slovenian debate coach and Sexton, president of NYU’s law school.

“Aside from debating, my proudest moment was honestly just being in the same room as so many people who I’ve looked up to for so long,” Agarwalla said.

The competition also helped the team connect with people from around the world. Teams from across the globe competed in all rounds of the competition.

“Relationship building was more fun because we got to meet people from diverse backgrounds,” Agarwalla said. “I had a very long quasi-debate with someone from UWC Singapore, and the fact that we had such varying opinions on topics was really interesting because it added nuance to our conversation.”

Earlier in the spring, seniors Eesha Neunaha, Mili Pathak, Sherry Long, Meera Thamaran, and Ayla Sumer placed second at the state debate tournament. They faced highly competitive teams from both public and private schools throughout Texas.

To get to the state level, debate teams have to collect a certain number of points by placing in other tournaments earlier in the year. In the fall season, debaters prepared for weeks ahead of their tournaments. Preparations began with the assignment of the prompts a week or two in advance. Debaters wrote their resolutions to debate at the tournaments, which typically began on Fridays. Later rounds would be held on Saturdays, when impromptu speeches and debates would be held until a winner had been selected.

The minimum number of points to qualify for state was 10. Besides the seniors, a team consisting of juniors Agarwalla, Aarnah Kurella, Evita Nino and Diya Hegde and sophomore Dithyae Devesh also qualified. The latter team made it to the top 16 at the tournament.

Throughout the year, debaters worked to qualify for higher

rounds. Ninth-grade novice debaters attended the Bluebonnet World Schools tournament in Spring, Texas, with one team finishing in quarterfinals and the other in semifinals. The Bluebonnet tournament featured schools from throughout the United States as well as teams from Mexico, Canada and Italy. In December, freshmen competing at the Carroll Winter Classic advanced to the semifinals.

In addition to attending tournaments across the nation, Hockaday also hosts its own invitational debate competition. This fall marked the 45th annual Ed Long Invitational tournament, during which the school hosted hundreds of debaters for a weekend tournament.

Hockaday debaters set up and run this tournament themselves.