PALM BEACH HIGH SCHOOL DEBATE TEAM PLACES FIFTH IN THE NATION
The Florida Oceanfront National Speech & Debate Association District’s “Blue Wave” World Schools Debate team – comprised of Wellington High School’s Brandon Schloss and Christopher Slaughter, Dreyfoos School of the Arts’ Michael Bole, and Boca Raton High School’s Natalie Navarrete – placed fifth at the 2018 NSDA National Championship Tournament in Ft. Lauderdale June 18-22.
In addition, Bole was recognized as the 4th-best speaker out of 1,100 competitors overall in WSD, and Navarrete placed 24th.
“As a competitive debater, being on stage at the NSDA National Championship tournament is something most debaters can only dream about,” Schloss said. “For me, this accomplishment is something I’ll never forget.”
“It was the most excited I’ve ever been in debate,” Navarrete added. “I never thought I would get to say I would be part of a team that was fifth in the nation.”
Oceanfront went 5-1 in preliminary rounds, and was seeded 20th overall out of 197 teams. In break rounds, they defeated teams from the Wind River (Wyoming), Arizona, and Lone Star (Texas) NSDA districts before falling to defending champion New York City on a 2-1 decision.
East Texas defeated China on an 8-3 decision for the championship.
“I was in shock when the judge announced we were advancing to the quarterfinal round,” Bole said. “I never doubted our ability as a team to make it that far, but being able to hear it was an unforgettable feeling.”
Wellington Debate Coach Paul Gaba, who was in charge of the hybrid team, said the quartet’s success was based on a strong work ethic and the ability for his students to focus on the task at hand.
“After the national championship topics were released, they got to work,” Gaba said. “They had online brainstorming discussions and practice rounds, and we even traveled to Broward County to scrimmage against their team. They really functioned effectively, and I believe the results prove that.”
Gaba also said the experience of competing at the 2017 national championship, where Oceanfront placed 32nd overall, and traveling to Boston this past March for the Harvard World Schools Debate Invitational paid huge dividends.
“In Boston, we went 3-4, but got to debate against some of the best international World Schools teams, including national teams representing places like Uganda, Hong Kong, and Canada,” Gaba said. “That level of international competition, against the best teams from other nations, was huge. We held our own, despite not having a local or regional World Schools Debate circuit in which to compete. And both Brandon and Chris were vital members of the team that advanced to double-octofinals last year in Birmingham.”
Schloss and Slaughter just graduated from Wellington, while Bole and Navarrete are entering their senior year. The returning WSD students have also been invited to apply for the USA national World Schools Debate traveling team.
“Going into the tournament, I wanted to have success because this would be my last-ever debate tournament,” Slaughter, who is attending the University of Central Florida, said. “Little would I know this would be my biggest achievement at the largest scale tournament.
“A lot of what we did on our previous Oceanfront team carried over to this year,” Slaughter added. “We just worked on perfecting our speaking style and really getting better at understanding the formula for debate rounds this year.”
“Being a part of the 2017 Florida Oceanfront World Schools team definitely helped prepare me for the 2018 NSDA National Tournament,” added Schloss, who is now at the University of Florida. “Through competing last year, I was able to grasp the nature and format of World Schools Debate and develop a greater understanding of the level of competition.”
One thing Schloss said helped both teams compete effectively on the national circuit was that each squad “had an incredible work ethic, an ability to work well together, and were able to complement each other’s individual strengths.
“Both teams were focused and driven to be successful,” Schloss said.
World Schools Debate is a three-on-three format. While a given team may consist of three to five members, only three students from a team participate in a given debate. Teams are assigned one of two sides in each round – either the “government team” proposing the motion, or the opposition team advocating the rejection of the motion. There are four speeches for each side – three eight-minute-long presentations, and a four-minute final commentary speech. That final speech must be presented by either the first or second speaker.
Prior to the tournament, the team decided Navarrete should be the first speaker, while Bole should deliver from both the second and fourth speaker positions. Schloss and Slaughter alternated the third slot.
“Other students could have easily cried about lack of speaking involvement,” Gaba said. “As seniors, Brandon and Chris could have each pointed out this was their final high school debate tournament, and they should be afforded more opportunities to speak. And it was well within their right to at least ask for consideration of this when it came to the national tournament.
“But they didn’t; Brandon and Chris chose to split the role of third speaker, and based on their understanding and comfort zone of each rounds’ motion, who would speak,” Gaba added. “This is such an amazingly mature and selfless attitude, and it led to wonderful results. I could not be prouder of the leadership and poise these two young men showed.”
Resolutions come in two types: prepared motions and impromptu motions. Motions included whether further development of Artificial Intelligence should be banned, whether private gun ownership does more harm than good to personal security, whether the rise of hashtag activism is bad, and whether corporations should donate to political candidates, campaigns, or parties.
“I thought the hardest round was our octofinals round,” Navarrete said, where the topic dealt with whether Puerto Rico should become an independent nation state. “We were on the opposition side, which was our weakest prep, and we were going against the best team in our bracket. But we won!”
“The hardest topic I debated was one regarding Puerto Rico’s independence from the United States,” added Bole. “There were a lot of grounds in the debate that needed to be covered as far as the morality and the practicality of Puerto Rico’s independence. It took a lot to really focus in on the key issues.”
While Puerto Rico might have been the most difficult round, Navarrete said the motion “This House believes states should not celebrate nationally important historical figures involved in deeply immoral actions” was the most difficult for which to prepare.
“It was tough to keep the debate international and put aside our own personal beliefs, especially because the debate is so tense in the U.S.,” Navarrete said.
All topics needed to be debated from a global perspective, meaning teams needed to stay away from United States-specific argumentation. And while teams had advance time to research and put together arguments on prepared motions, they only had one hour in which to structure impromptu arguments, and had to do so without access to either the Internet or their coach; their only resources were a hard-copy dictionary and an almanac.
“The most fun during the week was the impromptu prep periods,” Bole said. “While being stressful, it’s incredibly thrilling to go through the process with nothing except a dictionary, an almanac, and your teammates. It’s high pressure, but also rewarding if executed well.”
All four debaters opined World Schools Debate as a competitive event was the most fun they’d had in their debate careers. This echoed sentiments of the 2017 Oceanfront team, where Schloss, Slaughter, Caramen McDaniel, and Connor Yeackley all voiced their enthusiastic support of the event. Although, Navarrete said, “Winning that octofinals round thanks to our teamwork was a lot of fun, too.”
McDaniel – current attending Florida State University – was 5th-best speaker overall in Birmingham last year, and was active in helping this year’s team research, write, and edit their cases. Schloss and Slaughter will be assisting Bole, Navarrete, and the rest of the 2019 Oceanfront WSD program the same way.
“As a graduating senior, who has competed in debate for four years, my high school debate career could not have ended in a more memorable and incredible way,” Schloss said. “It was truly amazing.”
For more information about Wellington Debate, visit www.wellingtondebate.com, or follow the team on Twitter (@RedDawnDebaters).