The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

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Debate goes the distance

Hockaday hosts annual tournament

Hockaday debate students hosted the 46th annual Debate Invitational Nov. 9-11 with close to 800 participants in attendance.  

The Ed Long Debate Invitational was named after Ed Long, who played a significant role in promoting Fine Arts at Hockaday. During his 47 year Hockaday career, Long was a teacher, Fine Arts Department Chair, Upper School Dean, and the Nancy Penn Penson ’41 and John G. Penson Distinguished Teacher in Fine Arts.  He retired in 2018.

“I think we might be the oldest, if not the second oldest, to host an event in the Dallas area,” Dr. Chuck Walts, debate coach, said.  “We’re kind of notorious because it’s one of the biggest competitions in Texas. Many teams even from out of state like Florida came here to compete, so we’re almost like the overarching SPC organization for debate.”  

This regional invitational is an important prerequisite competition so attendants can qualify for the state tournament in March. Qualification is based on the number of points participants win during the elimination round, with 10 points required to advance.   

Sophomore Claire Ying described it as an intense experience. 

“Every season there are ten possible topics that are presented,” Ying said. “Students had to prepare all of them in order to be ready for whatever topic was chosen at the competition.”  

Topics for this season included political advertising, genetic editing and school vouchers, but the scale of the competition was far larger than just debate.

St. Mark’s student, Justin Kim, prepares to present. (Leela Phillip)

Walts highlighted the variety of events that attracted the biggest teams to our campus. 

“It was anything from speaking about current events to poetry and prose,” Walts said. “You name it. There was even drama and theater-oriented categories, public speaking focused events.”  

While only select Hockaday teams competed in the tournament, all debate participants were instrumental in helping to run an event of this magnitude.   

“Kids were here for such a variety of reasons, so it felt even bigger than a typical volleyball or golf tournament,” Walts said. “They could have been competing against an opponent in front of a judge or speaking to a room full of people where the judge makes a final ranking. We wanted to make sure everyone felt comfortable and welcomed.”  

While hospitality remained a top priority, competition also remained fierce.  

“Our biggest competitor right now is Greenhill,” Ying said. “They pretty much fill up the elimination bracket, so it’s pretty hard for us to advance into the next round. But right now, Hockaday is one of the top 100 debate programs in the country.” 

The debate invitational is a marathon event, but can often become a significant memory in a debater’s high school journey. 

“My first year here I had a senior come up to me from another school and she told me it was her last debate tournament and that she’d want everyone to have at least one experience like she had at Hockaday,” Walts said. “That’s the sort of thing that makes it all worth it.” 

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