Let the Debate Begin

WBHS’ Debate Team hosts the first Debate Tournament for the State season


Alison Zywicki

From Top to Bottom and Left to Right: Neil Haran, Aloysious Brenner, Chloe Pan, Ian Graham, Anushka Sarkar and Seth Oldenburg.

Friday, September 20, 2013  and Saturday, September 21, 2013, the West Bloomfield High School (WBHS) Debate Team hosted the very first debate tournament of the Michigan Debate season. This is the first time WBHS hosted a tournament this early in the season; their normal hosting time has been during November. WBHS has featured a debate team for thirteen years and this tournament was WBHS’ ninth time as a host. The tournament involved a very hectic atmosphere and was held the same time as the WBHS’ Family Fun Night and a Varsity Football Game.  The debate team did not, however, compete in the tournament, except for a mentor section of JV and Novice debaters who filled in for missing spots. The reason behind the absence of debaters is that this tournament is the WBHS Debate Team’s way of raising money for the rest of the season.

From right to left: Anna Ringuette (11th), Seth Oldenburg (11th), Douglas Husic (12th) and Neil Haran (10th) bring concessions down to the lunchroom
From right to left: Anna Ringuette, Seth Oldenburg, Douglas Husic and Neil Haran bring concessions down to the lunchroom
Seth Oldenburg  and Kathy Wu prep before debating
Seth Oldenburg and Kathy Wu prep before debating

The team does not employ a captain; all of the 3rd year varsity/4th year members act as Co-Captains/Presidents. The WBHS Debate Team consists of eleven JV/varsity members: Seniors: Aloysious Brenner, Saheli Ghosh, Douglas (Doug) Husic, Alejandro Miranda-Casb, Chloe Pan, Anushka Sarkar, , Robbie Pluta, and Daniel Wu, Juniors: Anna Ringuette, Seth Oldenburg and Sophomore, Kathy Wu, and  five novice members: Senior,  Rachel Hirsch, Sophomores: Neil Haran and Ian Graham and Freshmen: Alexis Caine and Maddelyn (Madde) Husic. Along with  Coach, Mr. Joel Thursam, there are three assistant coaches, Craig Hennigan, a teaching assistant as Wayne State University, Jake Justice and Talya Slaw, both of whom are college students at Wayne State University. Mr. Thursam adds that, “we also have about 15-20 students who are joining a new kind of debate called public forum.”



Senior, Saheli Ghosh, states that, “since we are hosting, it helps us as a team. We have more time to see the other teams’ arguments.  It’s a lot of fun.” Senior, Anushka Sarkar adds, “there are two aspects, one, it sets off the season and the second is strategy. This gives us a week to prep our arguments since we get to hear other teams and we are not debating. Also, we are helping another school, who is new to debate, by doing the first tournament. This helps send the message of policy debate and that is good for the debate community.”


Anna Ringuette and Aloysious Brenner prep for a debate.
Anna Ringuette and Aloysious Brenner prep for a debate.

The teams that competed at WBHS’ tournament included Okemos, Groves, Detroit Country Day, East Kentwood, Monashores, Flint Powers, Dexter High School, Detroit Community, Minland Dow and Traverse City Central. The schools arrived at WBHS at 3:00 pm and stayed till 10:30pm on Friday night and returned Saturday from 7:45 am  until around 6:00 pm. The WBHS debate teams spent 7th hour and beyond setting up the back hallway (500 and 600 classrooms), the cafeteria (concessions and meals), the teacher’s lounge (Judges Room), and in front of the library (TAB and Registration table). When talking to some of the four year members of the WBHS debate team, a lot of them stated similar opinions toward hosting the first tournament of the season. Senior, Alejandro Miranda-Casb, states that this tournament is “a good bonding experience. We haven’t competed yet and we’re already a family. I can only imagine how close we will be once we do start to compete.” Senior, Chloe Pan adds that “the amount of time you put into debate makes a hug difference,” and the team dedicated hours to make sure things ran smoothly and the fill-in debaters spent time prepping for their debate rounds; some of the practices were timed to inform the debaters of their speed.

Saheli Ghosh and Anushka Sarkar working at teh TAB and Regsistration table
Saheli Ghosh and Anushka Sarkar working at the TAB and Registration table

The tournament operates with every team doing four speeches. The teams are groups of two and each person in the group give an eight minute constructive that is either affirmative or negative, depending on the side, and two five minute rebuttals to the other team’s constructive. The WBHS; JV/Novice fill-ins were Anna Ringuette and Rachel Hirsh, Kathy Wu and Seth Oldenburg, Anna Ringuette and Neil Harran, Daniel Wu and Madeline Husic, and Aloysious Brenner and Robbie Pluta.

The tournament ran through five different debate rounds, three on Friday and two on Saturday. Next were the elimination rounds, then the JV finals and the Varsity semi-finals. Traverse City Central High School the tournament and Groves High School came in second place. Participating in the debates was unexpected for the members of the WBHS Debate Team, hence the WBHS fill-ins did not do so well, according to Mr. Thursam. WBHS’ next tournament is at Okemos High School on September 27th to the 28th. This time they will be competing, and they will be prepared and ready.

the competeting debaters
the competing debaters
Saheli Ghosh explains debate to Assistant Principle Arthur Ebert
Saheli Ghosh explains debate to Assistant Principal Arthur Ebert