Reagan Debate Shines Over Spring Break
Thirty seconds left—deep intake of oxygen but still screaming, clutching: scrambling for air, lips stammer and stutter. Second hand tick. Carbon dioxide build up in the diaphragm causes the body to double over in pain. Have to move faster, second hand tick, head sweating—salty sting in eyes. Without words to explain—mind burns. Choking in throat, second hand tick. Last gulp for air but it's finished. The timer goes off. Not drowning: it's the end of the last speech at a policy debate tournament.
Eleven o’clock on a Saturday night at South Grande Prairie high school—pressure in their brains feels like an anvil pounded constantly by a blacksmith, barely awake, and the hotdogs they ate three hours earlier (their only meal) are slowly dissolving inlittle lakes and pools of energy drinks.
Over the course of the debate year, (the forensic season lasts from the first week of September till the first week of March) one hundred and fortyeight high schools, for a total of four hundred and twenty six teams attempted to qualify for the state tournament this season. Of those teams, one hundred and fourteen of the states best teams, two hundred and twenty eight debaters, made the trek to a high school in Dallas to determine the best debate team in the state, at the Texas Forensic Association State Tournament. Unlike the UIL State Tournament, the TFA State Tournament has no restrictions on student travel, there is no separation for school size, and there is no division between public and private schools.
After three days, eleven continuous debate rounds, nineteen total hours of speaking, eighty eight speeches, endless questions and answers—after all of the flash drives, laptops, reams of paper, and pens have been put away—afterthe last lozenge and bottle of water has been recycled,the tournament ends, and the Reagan policy debate team of Rodrigo Paramo (Senior) and Bobby Zhan (Senior)have finished in second place at TFA state. Both Bobby and Rodrigo finished in the top ten speakers at the tournament, with Rodrigo finishing as the eighth overall speaker and Bobby finishing as the sixth overall speaker. On the way to a finals appearance Bobby and Rodrigo beat teams from Houston Lamar, Athens, Jesuit College Prep, Plano East, Grapevine, Coppell, Kinkaid, and the Greenhill School; several of the teams they defeated are ranked in the top twenty five teams in the nation by a neutral coaches poll. When asked about the mechanics of the tournament Bobby Zhan responded: “Tournaments operate like march madness: preliminary competition qualifies teams for seeding in a single elimination bracket, with the first seed facing an easier path than the thirty second seed. One loss and you’re out so the pressure was on. We were rewarded the fourth seed as a result of our solid qualification debates. After four grinding debates against quality teams, we finally reached the pinnacle of the final round. Our success was a validation of the daily dedication and tenacity of our debate team.” When asked about his historic success Rodrigo Paramo mused: “I had no idea that I would end up in the final round of the most prestigious state tournament in the country. Working for all of those months ultimately paid off when, in quarters, we heard the decision in our favor and I knew we could actually win the entire tournament. This tournament was my last TFA State and getting second was so fulfilling. It was a culmination of all of the hard work Bobby and I had put in… that helped propel us to finals.”
Not to be outdone, the team of Christopher Whitehair (Junior) and Adam Paarmann (Junior) finished in the top thirty-two teams, losing to a team from Coppell in Double Octa-finals.Adam Paarmann illuminated, “As a Junior, this was my third year qualifying for the TFA State. This year was exceptionally difficult, as it consisted of the top teams in the nation. My personal accomplishment was making the top thirty two teams for this tournament, which was a goal, and even though I would have liked to go further, I was very pleased with my overall performance at this tournament and look forward to another great year in debate.”
Another surprise occurred when Senior, Christina Wiener received the Texas Forensic Association scholarship for community involvement, character, and competition. “Sitting in awards, the person directly to my right turned to me and said that I was their first choice for their scholarship. I hadn’t even realized that she was the head of the scholarship committee till she told me. I am so grateful that TFA awarded me one of their scholarships. In such a highly competitive state I was pleasantly surprised to be picked. The money they’re giving me will help immensely in things such as the cost of books and supplies for college. I’m still undecided about where I’m going but this scholarship will definitely help me get there”, Christina Wiener explained.
Six days later the Reagan debate team trudged, weary, but wide-eyed to the University of Texas at Austin where two teams: Melissa Gayton (Sophomore) ShanealHarun (Sophomore) and Chris Whitehair(Junior) Benjamin Roberts (Senior) competed in the UIL 5A Cross-Examination Debate State Championships. Around three hundred and twenty teams began the UIL policy debate district qualification process earlier in the year and after two days of competition Christopher Whitehair and Ben Roberts finished third in the state. Along the way Ben and Chris defeated teams from Bellaire, AliefElsik, Hightower, Richardson, and Waco Midway. Ben Roberts added, “UIL State was a tense but very rewarding experience. Chris and I were fortunate enough to have help throughout the tournament. It was a triumphant end to my senior year and made me proud to be a RATTLER!” Ben and Chris join prestigious history, as bothTexas GovernorAnne Richards and President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson were former participants at UIL state as either a coach or a competitor. By competing in elimination rounds Ben and Chris qualify for scholarships from the Texas Interscholastic League Foundation and their semifinal debate will be featured in a DVD that is used as an example and teaching tool for UIL coaches and debaters.
Next up for the Rattlers: Ben Roberts, Shaneal Harun, Rodrigo Paramo and Bobby Zhan have qualified for the National Forensic League National Championship tournament in Birmingham, Alabama and the team of Paramo and Zhan are waiting for the announcement of the at large recipients to the most elite debate tournament in the country: the Tournament of Champions in Lexington, Kentucky.
Posted on March 22, 2013