Debate takes their stance for FFL Varsity States and ToC

by Natalie Maronas

THE PERFECT BODY: Senior Noah MacDonald performs a gripping line from one of his characters in his program titled “I, Ken.” By seamlessly acting out scenes with his binder as a prop and swapping between characters in different works, his performance on body shaming within the LGBT community earned him fifth place in Program Oral Interpretation at FFL Varsity States. Photo by Natalie Maronas

Competing in a sport is simple in theory; setting aside time to give it your all and reign champion among other students is not something that is hard to understand. However, rarely do we know the perspective of setting up the competition and making sure everything goes smoothly. It can be daunting knowing that even the tiniest slip-up in the management process can cause a domino-effect of problems and even the tarnishment of your reputation. However, if done correctly, hosting a competition can work wonders for the future of the team.

With West Broward’s Speech and Debate team already achieving many accomplishments earlier in the year, they further solidified their status as they successfully hosted FFL Varsity States on Mar. 6 to 7. Requiring hard work from every team member, they were able to manage an orderly and coherent tournament as competitors from across Florida, including from West Broward, gathered to gain the title of state champion in their events. As many West Broward competitors took home awards with the tournament concluded, the team now prepares its best students for the Tournament of Champions (ToC) on April 27 to 29.

“Seeing everyone from all over the state come down as well as having our own kids make it to final rounds was amazing for our team,” said debate coach Jonathan Dubin as he summarizes how he felt about preparation for the weekend. “I loved getting compliments about just how nice our school was.”

The Debate program’s successful status makes it easy to understand why such a major tournament had been hosted at West Broward. The school stands as the third-highest ranking in the state of Florida next to Western and Cypress Bay High School. Furthermore, it holds a reputation with the individual strength it has through its members. Having six competitors earning enough bids, which are earned by reaching a certain ranking at national qualifying tournaments, they are now eligible to compete the Tournament of Champions as it stands as one of the biggest tournaments in the nation. This tournament had presented a challenge to the team, however, as the arrival of teams from across Florida raised the bar for the quality that management, and even competing, had to be at.

“Every district comes to this tournament, and since our district is one of the hardest in the state, a lot of people from the Hurricane district were in the final rounds,” said sophomore Parker Harrison, who performed in Duo Interpretation for the tournament. “Every other tournament outside of here would think that someone’s piece is good, but compared to us it’s like a novice piece. That’s why for duo, the competition was pretty even and it all depended on how much the piece related to the judge.”

The management aspect of the tournament was a challenge for many members as they found themselves having to handle rooms and buildings throughout the entire school. Students were tasked with a number of responsibilities including room and building monitoring, transporting ballots from judges, setting up the awards table, and even serving food to competitors. With some of the best students throughout Florida coming to the school, it was essential that everything ran accordingly and that students did what was needed in order to keep the tournament on schedule. Complications with missing judges and air conditioning in buildings impeded on this process along with the struggle to have these elements set up on time. Luckily, the team found themselves maintaining a consistent schedule and appearing presentable everyone who attended.

“It was hard since it required a lot of planning and many different moving parts,” Dubin said. “It was my first time actually setting up a tournament like this, so it was pretty new to me and that made it harder. But in the end, it was hard but rewarding.”

A GALACTIC ADVENTURE: Senior Anthony Conde (left) and Sophomore Parker Harrison (right) demonstrate a comedic lightsaber duel as they play off each other and swap between different characters. Through their abridged rendition of the parodic film “Spaceballs,” they were able to take third place in Duo Interpretation at FFL Varsity States. Photo by Natalie Maronas

The tournament also provided many successes for Bobcats who competed that weekend. With them being able to attend through qualification at FFL Varsity Regionals, the majority of students were able to reach into as far as finals for their ranking. Senior Ethan Massa had the most notable victory out of West Broward’s competitors as he took home the title of State Champion in Lincoln-Douglas debate. Furthermore, Parker Harrison and his partner, senior Anthony Conde, rose in the ranks as they were able place third in Duo Interpretation. Sophomore Alex Steel also received another notable victory this year as he was able to sweep to fourth in Humorous Interpretation. With it being his last year in debate, senior Noah MacDonald also earned one last win in Program Oral Interpretation as he took fifth for the event. 

“I’m very satisfied with how I performed. I feel like in my preliminary rounds, I felt like I deserved to place higher in some rounds but it is what it is; I was still happy to be there,” Steel said. “In semifinals, I was so happy since I had two spectators that were in this and my final round. So many people came up to me and told me I deserved to be top two since everyone saw that I gave it my all in my performance.”

With the competitive season of debate coming to a close, many students prepare eagerly for the Tournament of Champions in April as they plan on flying to the University of Kentucky to compete with some of the best in the nation. While many students have already received well over the two minimum bids required to compete, many newcomers only in their second year of debate find the task of competing daunting. However, with the turnout of debaters going to compete, this year seems hopeful for the success that West Broward might bring back.

“I think the only things I have left are to compete at ToC and judge at Novice States,” MacDonald said “When it comes to ToC, I’m already qualified to go and since it’s my last tournament ever, it’s really important for me to be there. I know that it being such a prestigious tournament means a lot for me and for West Broward.”

As the tournament proved to be a massive success, there is hope that more opportunities to host open up for the team next year. These achievements, both competitively and as a team, demonstrate how debate’s status will only improve from here going further. With the efficiency of the team and the scope of the program, it is evident that debate will not being going anywhere anytime soon. 

“It was a great way for our team and school to boost their reputation and I’d like to do more like this in the future,” Dubin said. “Now when we go to other tournaments, we can complain when things go wrong because we know that we did it right before.”

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