No Days Off: Chaminade Speech and Debate Shines this Summer on the National Level

By Oscar Matos ’18

While most Chaminade students were finishing up comprehensive exams and enjoying their break from school, several members of the Robert C. Wright Speech and Debate Team sacrificed cherished vacation days to compete at multiple national events occurring this summer.  Last June, eight speakers and debaters traveled to Birmingham, Alabama to represent Chaminade at the National Speech and Debate Association National Tournament.  The event was a chance for the Flyers to showcase their abilities against the toughest competition in the nation, and the team left no doubt that they could step up to the challenge.

(l.-r.) Eichner Award recipient Pat Johnson ’17; Ed Doran ’18; Conor Lynch ’17; Aidan Fitzgerald; Bro. John McGrory, S.M. ’84; John Michael Magloire; Dan Hepworth ’18; Rory Mahon ’18; and Thomas Flatley ’18 spent the last week of school in Birmingham, AL for the national tournament.

From June 18-23, the Flyers competed in various events at several high schools in the Birmingham area.  The team sent two recently graduated seniors in Conor Lynch, competing in Informative Speaking, and Pat Johnson, who competed in World Schools Debate.  However, the majority of attendees were rising seniors, with Ed Doran, Daniel Hepworth, and Rory Mahon competing in World Schools Debate, Thomas Flatley in International Extemporaneous Speaking, Aidan Fitzgerald in Big Questions, and team president John Michael Magloire in Lincoln-Douglas Debate.

Aidan Fitzgerald ’18 (l.) and John Michael Magloire (r.) both received awards and scholarships for their performances in their events at the National Speech and Debate Association National Tournament.

While all of the debaters performed admirably against some of the sharpest minds in the nation, the two stars of the event were Fitzgerald and Magloire.  Aidan’s event, Big Questions, involved posing the debaters with a question consisting of both philosophical and scientific elements; in this case the question, which would be debated in every round of the event, revolved around whether or not science leaves room for free will to exist.  After two days of intense debate, in which Aidan won all six of his preliminary rounds, those who advanced entered double-elimination rounds.  Entering elimination rounds as the first seed, he lost the first debate of this phase before going on an astounding five-round winning streak.  After four days of non-stop competing, this streak was snapped by his second and final loss in round 13, ending an impressive run that earned him third place in the country and a $2,500 grant from the John Templeton Foundation, which sponsored the event.

JM Magloire competed in Lincoln-Douglas Debate, a traditional one-on-one debate where the contestants debate one topic repeatedly over the duration of the tournament.  In this case, the topic was whether or not individual civil liberties should be prioritized over the safety of the country as a whole.  At an event as prestigious as this tournament, nearly all of the debaters have ensured that their pre-written cases have been fine-tuned to the point of near perfection; this means that the difference between an early exit and a successful tournament is not necessarily the preparation, but the mental dexterity that the contestant shows in the heat of the moment.  JM had this dexterity in spades, rattling off nine straight wins to start off the tournament before losing in the 10th round, the first of his two allowed losses before elimination.  Facing this elimination, JM managed to string together three more victories before finally falling in the 14th round.  His performance earned him sixth place in the country in what is one of Speech and Debate’s most competitive events.

John Michael Magloire ’18 (c.), standing with his father (r.) and Bro. John McGrory, S.M. ’84 (l.) is the first Chaminade student to win the Great Communicator Debate Series.

The tournament capped off a remarkably successful season for Chaminade, with Magloire saying, “I’m extremely happy with our team’s performance at Nationals last season; I’m glad that I have been a part of the team’s consistent success during my time at Chaminade.”

This incredible run at Nationals was the end of the season for nearly every debater, with one exception.  From July 20-22, JM Magloire travelled to Simi Valley, California, to compete in the Great Communicator Debate Series, sponsored by the Reagan Library.  This competition pitted 16 students, out of the hundreds who had competed for qualification to the tournament, from across the country against each other.  Following the winning streak of Peter Charalambous ’16, who placed in the top four of this event just last year, Magloire performed incredibly, besting 15 of the most skilled debaters in the country to take home the title of Great Communicator National Champion, along with a $10,000 purse for his efforts.

With the 2017-2018 team already preparing for the upcoming season, Magloire has had a chance to see the talent that this current group possesses. “After the success of the 2016-2017 season, I’m very confident in the team,” he said. “I know that we will continue to succeed in this upcoming season.”