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Randolph Speech & Debate Sees Success at Harvard University International Tourney

Katherine Burke
Randolph Speech & Debate strikes a pose while on campus for the Harvard University International Tournament, held over Presidents Day weekend, February 16 – 19, 2024.

Randolph Speech & Debate achieved impressive results at this year’s Harvard University international tournament, held over Presidents Day weekend. A total of 27 students traveled by school bus to Cambridge, Mass., for the three-day-long tourney, leaving on Friday, Feb. 16, and returning home on Monday, Feb. 19, with an award in hand.

“They were competing pretty much all day, from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and had LOTS of fun,” Head Coach Katherine Burke wrote in a post to RHS staff after the event. “We were even able to take home an award!”

Congratulations go out to junior Carolyn He, an Octofinalist in Informative Speaking, and sophomore Emma Brunton, who took 29th place in Overall Speaker awards for Novice Public Forum. With 500 students competing in the category, this put Brunton in the top 6%.

[The Harvard tournament] hosts competitors from across the country and internationally. It is very prestigious and an amazing opportunity to attend.”  

— Briana Lange, president of debate

He, who attends Morris County School of Technology, explained that Informational Speaking is a speech event designed to teach judges as much as possible about a singular topic, while keeping it entertaining.  As a participant in one of the newest speech and debate events, He displayed incredible talent in accomplishing such a feat. 

As for Brunton’s category, the Novice Public Forum, “We prepare two cases for a prompt; the affirmative and the negation,” she explained. “The prompt for February was whether the United States should ban single use plastic or not.”  While Brunton gained victory in a team debate, she also won as a singular competitor with her solo speech.

Junior Ryan Schorr, president of speech, weighed the pros and cons of each category. “Being solo has the benefit of having your own autonomy; you can do whatever you want and have 100% control,” he explained. “When you’re in a partnership there’s always the risk of disagreement, but if you can pull together, you can make something better than solo work.” 

However, Schorr is still split on his favorite, saying, “I don’t have an exact preference. I usually do better when working alone, but it’s a lot more fun working with a partner.”  

No matter the outcome, competing in a tournament at Harvard is a huge deal. As junior Briana Lange, president of debate, explained, “It hosts competitors from across the country and internationally. It is very prestigious and an amazing opportunity to attend.”  

Even Brunton, who placed extremely well, recounted how daunting the other competitors were. “There were kids from private schools coming with really good coaches, and there were kids coming from the Dominican Republic and China on planes, yet everyone was still competing in English,” she said. “They already knew another language to make them smarter.”  

Lange further noted the long-term value of Speech & Debate tournaments for students applying to excellent schools like Harvard, saying, “Speech & Debate takes critical thinking, communication and preparation; all traits that can be applied in an academic setting such as college.  It shows students’ ability to engage in complex topics that cannot be learned through things like sports.” 

Burke noted that while the students were generally busy competing, they still managed to squeeze some fun into their schedule, which included “pretending to be Harvard students walking around campus.”

“Our coaches were usually busy, so we had time to explore the city together, which was really nice,” Schorr said, recalling the fun times they had in Boston. He also recounted good times at group dinners and a particular bagel stand provided by Harvard where they could fuel up and chat while on breaks from competing.  

With all this success coming to the Speech & Debate team, keep an eye out for them in Districts and even Nationals, as followers of the team may be congratulating them again soon.

About the Contributor
Emily Lindsey
Emily Lindsey, Staff Reporter
Emily Lindsey is a freshman who is excited to start her first year of reporting for Rampage. After school, Emily can be found playing basketball or soccer, or attending one of the many clubs she's in, such as Green Club or Bridges. In her free time, Emily enjoys baking, playing her violin and petting her dogs Jack and Chase. Emily loves all kinds of writing and is eager to explore journalism this year.
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