RANDOLPH, NJ- The Randolph High School Speech and Debate Team saw a record number of students succeed at the 46th Annual Harvard National Speech and Debate Tournament, with eight students advancing to the octafinals and one person advancing to the quarterfinals. The tournament was held the weekend of February 14-16 on the university campus. 

The team had a tremendous showing with the following students in elimination rounds: 

  • Sophomores Kaily Kim and Chris Sebastian, triple octafinalists in Junior Varsity Public Forum

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  • Junior Bala Saravana, triple octafinalist in Junior Varsity Lincoln Douglas 

  • Freshman Sammy Kouidri, double octafinalist in Junior Varsity Lincoln Douglas 

  • Seniors Anthony Demelfi (director of membership) and Tyler Harper (captain of interpretation), octafinalists in Duo Interpretation 

  • Senior Mallika Ravi (captain of public address), octafinalist in Informative Speaking 

  • Senior Katherine Hu (vice president of speech), octafinalist in Original Oratory 

  • Senior Brenna McConnell (vice president of debate), quarterfinalist in Congressional Debate

With 47 team members attending, this was also the largest group of competitors that RHS had ever sent to the tournament. Since so many debaters and speakers were in attendance, all events were well represented. This included speech events such as Humorous Interpretation, Duo Interpretation, Dramatic Interpretation and more. This also included debate events such as Lincoln Douglas, Public Forum, and more. 

“We packed a coach bus with 47 RHS Speech & Debate team members and four teacher chaperones, which is the largest group we’ve ever had go to Harvard,” explained Peter Quinn, an RHS history teacher and coach of the speech and debate team. “In the end, nine students qualified for elimination rounds, the most we’ve had in over a decade. They did RHS proud and showed us as a team to be reckoned with on the national circuit.” 

“The Harvard Tournament is always one of the most anticipated tournaments for not only our team but the speech and debate community as a whole,” said senior Julia Yan, president of the speech and debate team. “Each year our team gains more and more members and with it comes new and interesting talent. I am overall proud of all of our members for preparing and competing on a national level. And after the many rounds and many late nights, we all come back from Harvard a little bit more grown up than before.” 

Harvard is not only a national tournament, but it’s also a unique experience due to the independence for every individual competitor. The T-train was right outside the hotel, where competitors could travel to the Harvard Campus in a matter of minutes. After a long day of debating or speaking, competitors were able to travel and explore the campus as well as nearby restaurants and shops in the beautiful town and buy cool merchandise indicating that they have been to Harvard and in the city of Cambridge. 

“Even if they didn’t qualify [to advance to final rounds], everyone has something to take away from this tournament--great memories, team bonding, useful feedback,” Quinn said. “We’re hoping that this sets the tone as we head into the home stretch of the season.”  

The next tournament is at Montville High School on Feb. 22. 

Editor's Note:Sean Wattman is a student at RHS participating in a Journalism with Tapinto Randolph.