A Busy Break: Debaters Excel at Two Tournaments over Winter Recess

By Jack Viscuso ‘21

The start of February break signified the beginning of the arduous 44th Annual Harvard National Forensics Tournament for members of the Robert C. Wright Speech and Debate Club.  Boarding a coach bus with Syosset High School, the team traveled to Cambridge, Massachusetts on Friday, February 16, anticipating tough competition and good times ahead.

Aidan Fitzgerald ’18, Bro. John McGrory, S.M. ’84, and Sean Lochner ’19 pose for a picture after Fitzgerald and Lochner placed back-to-back in the Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Fitzgerald coming in first and Lochner following right behind.

After arriving at the Charles Hotel, the team settled in and got a “run down” of the tournament from Bro. John McGrory, S.M. ’84.  They grabbed dinner in town at favorites such as Chipotle, Subway, iHop, and Shake Shack and then returned to get a restful night’s worth of sleep.

Early Saturday morning, speakers and debaters dressed up and headed to their competitions at various venues.  One of the uncommon aspects of this particular tournament is that the events take place at different schools located miles apart.  Senior captain Dan Hepworth commented, “The Harvard tournament is unique because it takes places in a multitude of buildings throughout Cambridge, leaving lots of time to explore the beautiful area and Harvard’s campus, while fostering a sense of independence and responsibility.  We were able to Uber back and forth on our own and get meals independently.”

After a grueling day of competition, the Flyers prepared diligently for the final rounds on Sunday.  Although the work was tiresome, Steven Jones ’21 commented, “The hotel was terrific, and we were granted lots of time to play games in the room and hang out with friends, while also collaborating by editing cases to conquer the fierce competition.”

Building off their success at the Lexington tournament, Junior Varsity Lincoln-Douglas debaters excelled.  Freshman Michael Bellia and sophomore Grant Allen both advanced to elimination rounds with 4-2 records and finished as triple-octofinalists. Bellia added, “Although this tournament was challenging, it provided an opportunity to improve my debating skills against experienced sophomores and juniors.”

Underclassmen Jack Viscuso ’21, Michael Bellia ’21, and Grant Allen ’20 stroll down the halls of Harvard, following incredible performances for JVLD.

Sophomores Charlie Weiler and Timmy Franz won their triple-octo rounds and went on to compete at Harvard Yard on Monday morning.  They spent Sunday night blocking out arguments and revising cases, with the assistance of other teammates and varsity captains.  Neither debater moved past double-octos, but they were awarded trophies for their commendable effort.

Outside of debate, Rory Mahon ’18 worked his way to quarterfinals in Congress, exclaiming, “All my hard work certainly paid off, and it was enjoyable to compete against other talented Congress participants in a fun, yet serious atmosphere.”

While most of the team members were now free to enjoy their break, 12 debaters reconvened for practice immediately to prepare for the Long Island District’s elimination tournament for the National Speech and Debate Association National Tournament, which will be held in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, from June 17-22.  Debaters competed on Friday, February 23, and Saturday, February 24, in a double-elimination style competition until two debaters remained.  Aidan Fitzgerald ’18 and Sean Lochner ’19 qualified for the tournament in Lincoln-Douglas debate, and will be joined by John Michael Magloire ’18, who automatically qualified for the tournament.

Speech and Debate President John Michael Magloire reflected on the team’s successes, remarking, “Both the Harvard Invitational and NSDA Elims were successful for our team, as we had several members put up strong performances.  In the next few months, the team will begin extensive practice as we prepare for states and nationals.  Now that all of our invitationals are over, I am looking forward to defending our state title in LD debate.”