As the sun started to set over the Fremont Federation of High Schools in East Oakland at the Bay Area Urban Debate Leagues’ National Qualifying Tournament, the heat had yet to dissipate between two varsity teams. Despite fighting for first place on stage, both teams were already triumphant winners. This spring, the Bay Area will be well represented at the Chase National Tournament in New York City by two teams from both sides of the Bay: Zach Delle and Alan Lin (Balboa DL) of San Francisco’s Balboa High School and Tanesha Walker and Daemiion Yaphet (EXCEL WY) of Oakland’s EXCEL Academy. Accompanying them throughout the 7 round journey (and to New York City!) are their respective coaches: Eric Wilcox and Sebastian Castrechini.
After an intense, yet educational final round on December 13, the champions of this winter classic were Zach Delle and Alan Lin of Balboa. In a hard fought debate against EXCEL Academy’s Tanesha Walker and Daemiion Yaphet, healthcare clashed with the economy — treating both teams to a preview of the National Tournament’s rigorous argumentation. In the Varsity Division, the two teams prevailed over tough competition. Zach Seidl and Greg Belvin (Skyline SB) of Oakland’s Skyline High School, owners of a perfect record in the preliminary rounds, and Cal Prep’s Carlene Ervin and William Hampton Bruce (Cal Prep EB), deemed a “dream team” by many observers, were the tournament’s semi-finalists. Among a stacked quarter-finalist pool in the Varsity Division were Skyline’s talented duo of Rashid Campbell and Kayla Wheatfall (Skyline CW) along with fellow teammates Maya Juergens-Ingle and Santiago Madden (Skyline JM). The aforementioned teams, along with Seidl and Belvin, helped bolster Skyline to the most represented high school in the tournament’s elimination rounds. Rounding off the top eight and showing off incredible skill and strategy on home turf were Fremont’s Juan Ramos and Jazmin Garcia (Fremont RG) as well as the champions of this season’s Inaugural Tournament, Natassija Jordan and Briana Martinez (Cal Prep JM). The sheer breadth of the varsity pool, both in preliminary rounds and in the final rounds, are a testament to BAUDL’s gifted students.
The top speakers of the Varsity Division were a diverse mix of new and familiar faces. At his very first varsity tournament, adding to his newly minted National Qualification, was the tournament’s Top Speaker, Zach Delle of Balboa High School. Separated by less than a third of a speaker point was Natassija Jordan of Cal Prep. Rashid Campbell of Skyline, Carlene Ervin of Cal Prep and Maya Juergens-Ingle were also among the tournament’s top five speakers. Among the top ten were Fremont’s very own Kim Mejia and Jazmin Garcia along with Skyline’s Kayla Wheatfall, Zach Siedl, and Greg Belvin.
Yet, not to be outdone were the participants in the Novice Division, vying for coveted prizes and the chance to compete on day two as one of the top teams. In finals, it was a Skyline closeout — a rousing debate between finalists Denaya Clay and LaTorree Howard (Skyline CH) and David Fong and Kira Turnball (Skyline TF). In the end, the difficult decision was made: David Fong and Kira Turnball were named champions. The semi-finalists included the tournament’s second seed (undefeated in preliminary rounds!), Tina Chen and Sarah Kay (Balboa CK) and Cal Prep’s Jamiah Sanders and Aaliyah Harrison (Cal Prep SH). Separated by mere points and on the brink of elimination rounds were Street Academy’s Luis Montoya and Arnold Torres (Street MT) as well as Downtown High School’s Will Renderos and Jennifer Farjardo (Downtown RF).
Capping off the top speakers were tournament champions Kira Turnball and David Fong of Skyline, respectively, with a first and second place speaker award finish. Along with a semi-final showing, Aaliyah Harrison of Cal Prep earned bragging rights as one of the top three speakers. Street Academy continued a strong showing with Alejandro Benitez and Luis Montoya among the top five speakers.
Finally, a big congratulations was extended to Skyline High School. The school, among its many honors, was awarded the Sweepstakes award. Cal Prep, a small, yet mighty force, was given the team Spirit Award.