A group of Blaine High School debaters competing for the first time at Harvard’s annual Presidents’ Day tournament won a top prize for new competitors.
The Harvard National High School Invitational Forensics Tournament is one of the largest and most prestigious such contests in the country. The Blaine team won the sweepstakes award in the Congress category, given to the highest-performing new school. Bailey Rung, a senior, placed second overall in congressional debate, in a field of nearly 400 competitors. In the Congress category, competitors debate legislation as though they were a member of Congress.
Eight Blaine High School students attended.
“I wanted them to experience a higher level of competition and compete against kids from across the county,” said Blaine speech and debate coach Ross Eichele.
Eichele said that each region of the county is known for its distinctive debate style and that he wanted his students to observe and compete in a wider field.
Midwestern debaters like to start with an anecdote or quote. East Coast debaters are more direct and to the point, while Southern debaters often favor a more measured pace and place a greater emphasis on presentation, he said.
Competing with a variety of debaters also teaches students to assess their competition and adjust and recalibrate quickly.
“We try to keep things fluid,” Eichele said.
The trip was also about broadening horizons. Eichele said many of his best and brightest students tend to apply to colleges close to home. He’s hoping that spending a weekend on an Ivy League campus and competing with debaters from around the country will persuade them to weigh more college options.