Choate Hosts Debate Invitational

Last Sunday, over 50 four-person teams and 15 schools participated in the annual Choate Invitational Tournament. This competition held its place amongst other tournaments hosted by members of the Debate Association of New England Independent Schools’s (DANEIS) tournaments as the last qualifier for the World Universities Debate Championship (WUDC) in South Africa this spring. Independent schools from all over New England send both novice and advanced division teams to compete in these parliamentary, unprepared debates. This year’s Choate Invitational Tournament marks the ninth year since it began in 2008.

Having set the date almost a year in advance, many months of planning went into the tournament. Jack Miley ’20, Kailey Marottolo ’19, and Hannah Paridis ’18 were the student coordinators along with faculty advisors Ms. Kyra Jenney and Mr. Neil Shimmield. Miley oversaw all the emails correspondences and organized the debaters and teams, while Marottolo and Paridis arranged information folders for the participants containing the locations of the debates and other necessary information. Ms. Jenney and Mr. Shimmield worked with SAGE and ABM and came up with the resolutions for each of the three rounds of the debate. Captain Ellie Latham ’18 and Mr. Shimmield worked to create the pairings for Choate’s team, matching debaters with similar experience and overall ability. “It’s tacky to win at your own tournament, so we don’t always use our best debaters,” Mr. Shimmield joked.

On Sunday morning, teams began arriving at 10:00 a.m. to register and eat brunch in the Dining Hall. Around 11:00 a.m., Latham welcomed the debaters and announced the locations of the debates: the Lanphier Center, Steele Hall, and the Humanities Building. During this time, Mr. Shimmield also ran a Judges Briefing in the library, where judges learned how to score debates. Throughout the day, each pair of debaters competed in three rounds, matched against pairs from other schools. During each debate, pairs were given ten minutes to prepare their case before presenting to the judge, who scores the debaters on a scale from 70-100. This year, resolutions included “this house believes that gun manufacturers should be liable for gun related deaths,” “this house is not ready for driverless cars,” and “this house believes that Donald Trump is making China great again.” Each round was scheduled an hour apart, starting at 12:00 p.m. and ending at 3:00 p.m. Most of the debaters finish edearly and went to the Dining Hall to eat an early dinner before the Awards Ceremony.

Photo Courtesy of Reade Ben

Debate Team members pose after a successful run of the invitational.

Behind the scenes, six to eight student volunteer runners transported the score sheets from the debate to the tab room, located on the first floor of the Humanities Building. There, Ms. Jenney and the student coordinators, along with the help of Mr. Robison from Loomis Chaffee, corrected scoring mistakes, ran down missing score sheets, and finalized winners. At around 4:00 p.m., the top three four-person teams, two-person teams, and individual speakers from each division were announced and awarded. Choate dominated the novice division, with Giorgie McCombe ’19 and Joanna Ding ’19 winning first place novice pair, as well as third and first place individual speaker, respectively. Overall, Hotchkiss, Andover, and Exeter were awarded first, second, and third place school, in that order.

Mpilo Norris ’18, a debater in the advanced division, described the event as an “arena for learning and competition.” Reade Ben ’18, Vice-Captain of the team, especially loved the third round of the competition, which involved resolutions such as “this house believes that zombies are more dangerous than werewolves.” In terms of what the hopes for the team were going into the event, Latham said that she always wants to use tournaments as a chance to improve the team’s novice debaters as well as prepare the juniors to become captains and pod leaders next year.

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