“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” This captivating quote by Irish avant-garde writer Samuel Beckett effectively sums up the journey of St. Mary’s Debate’s 2013-2014 season. On February 5th and 7th, 2014, the St. Mary’s JV and Varsity debate teams headed off to Seisen and ASIJ respectively for their final tournament. The three and a half months involving four practice debates, countless sleepless nights, the consolidation of arguments, and hundreds of thought provoking discussions prior to the tournament all culminated to this one moment. It was truly the time when all teams were required to either bring out the best in them, or head back to their pavillion in shame.
Firstly, let us begin with the story of the JV debaters. This year, out of the 21 JV members (i.e. 7 teams of 3), 15 were freshmen and sophomores, and approximately the same number were rookies. Nevertheless, after the tournament in 2013, which produced 0 wins for the Titans, the team could do no wrong. Fresh speaking and analytical skill were brought to the team from the lower grades, and, for the most part, once they were taught the basics, the path to success was laid. This was evident from the results of the debates as time went one. Although the first two practice debates yielded primarily failures for the 7 teams, there was a definite change in results for the next two debates. Finally, when the time for the tournament came, the teams, albeit full of nerves (since they were primarily novice speakers), pulled themselves together and produced a 50-50 win-loss ratio, which coincidentally met the goal of their new coach, Mr. Matthew Stovall. Considering that the majority of the team consisted of rookies and that their coach, despite having taught and coached debate before, was a first-timer at St. Mary’s as well, the team did surprisingly well.
Now onto the Varsity team! As opposed to the JV’s 7 teams, the Varsity tournament features 3 teams of 3 from each school – Seisen, St. Mary’s, and ASIJ. This year, the Varsity tournament was full of highs and lows. As it very often is in Debate, St. Mary’s and ASIJ were neck and neck. Unfortunately, ASIJ edged out the Titans in a thrilling finish. Nevertheless, there were a lot of positives and mistakes to learn from and build upon from this year’s tournament. First of all, though we had three seniors, who were extremely experienced and awe-inspiring debaters, the rest of the team consisted of three juniors, 2 sophomores, and 1 freshmen, an age ratio that is very rarely seen on Varsity Debate. In addition, three of these non-seniors were also first timers to Varsity Debate. Although we had a surfeit of fresh talent in the team, lack of experience could also be occasionally noticed. However, this can definitely be seen as a huge benefit for the future. Our now-skilled and experienced rookies will be invaluable assets for the future, hopefully propelling us to a win. Not only this, but the departure of the three seniors will give a great opportunity for the many JV debaters whose talent has primarily laid dormant till now to step up. Finally, kudos must go to the winners of speaker awards – Kaushik Swaminathan, Julian Wan, and Yuta Nagano – and our All Star Debater – Stephan Nitu.
As it is evident, the loss of St. Mary’s’ Varsity Debate team should not be taken
too negatively. If at all, there were a multitude of positives to take away from this season. So here’s wishing the Debate team all the best for next year and hoping their enormous talent can be converted into the return of the trophy to its rightful Titan home!
Photos provided by See Woo Lee.