Seniors compete in Harvard Debate Tournament


Seniors Yana Kaplun and Richard Wang practice their debate speeches and note taking skills.

Stav Nachum, Features Editor

Each year, one of the biggest national debate tournaments of the year is held in Cambridge, Mass. This year, seniors Yana Kaplun and Richard Wang competed against some of the best policy debate teams from all over the country at Harvard Debate Tournament from Feb. 14 through Feb. 17.

“The experience was all around pretty great, it felt pretty cool debating in Harvard,” Wang said. “My favorite part was winning.”

Debating for the past four years, both Jefferson students were well aware of how to prepare for such a competitive competition, even though it was their first year of serious competition at the national circuit. By having daily speech practices and mock research topics to do over the past summer vacation as well as debating at national tournaments throughout the first semester, both Kaplun and Wang were fully prepared to dominate their competition at Harvard.

“Our work, for sure, paid off in the end. I think if we were to do it again I wouldn’t necessarily be more prepared because we’ve been working ever since the start of summer for this goal,” Wang said. “And, winning always feels good – it was almost surreal knowing you did something that nobody else from Virginia has for a very, very long time.”

Achieving a spot in the octafinals at the competition, Kaplun and Wang got a second bid and a full qualification to the Tournament of Champions (TOC), the most prestigious high school debate tournament in the nation, which takes place in April.

“The best part of the competition was the feeling of knowing we had gotten our second bid and would be going to the TOC in April,” Kaplun said. “We got the first bid by winning the Pennsbury tournament two weeks ago, which felt like a huge accomplishment, so this was even more unexpected and amazing.”

Excited for what the future of their debate can bring them in terms of success and competitions, both Kaplun and Wang also see possibilities for improvement in their debate tactics and speeches.

“From a debate standpoint, I think I could always go back and improve on certain speeches to make them more persuasive,” Kaplun said. “Overall, though, I am incredibly happy with our Harvard experience.”