First Time National Champs For West Debate


Isabelle Yuen, Staff Writer

Facing the large crowd of beaming students, senior Jacqueline Wei waits for the week long results in an echoing auditorium. The results were announced in descending order, making the first place winner endure the longest moment of their life. But after the second place winner was called, she knew she had become a national champion.

“I was not really expecting to go in and win first,” Wei said. “It was a crazy experience.”

Still shocked with the news she shares her experience and how it could have never happened without the help of the entire team.

“I think it kind of shows how supportive our team is, because we all cheer each other on,” Wei said.

Wei competed in U.S. extemp speech, which is a seven minute current event speech that must be prepared in 30 minutes.

“There are 13 rounds total, and for every round they give you a topic area,” Wei said. “You don’t know what the question is.”

She has competed in extemp before, and has experience with the event.

“In my sophomore year, when I was part of the Jasper team, I did well enough, so I automatically qualified again for my junior year.” Wei said.The event is broadcasted live, and presented on a large auditorium stage with rows and rows of chairs to fill.

“I was super nervous actually, because the stage has a lot of lights,” Wei said. “I walked out to the stage, saw that there were a lot less people than I thought there were going to be, and immediately became less nervous.”

Many friends are made during these trips, and the friendships are kept.

“Everyone on the national stage were friends, so it was not very intense and I was not as nervous as I think I could have been,” Wei said. “We have the opportunity to go out of the state to compete, and we meet a lot of people from different places around the country.

Some debate events are more team based, but some are one on one with a competing student. Wei’s winning event was a one on one event that required a different way of thinking. Senior Mukund Rao, who also attended nationals, competed in a one on one event as well.

“There is this other qualification tournament, and there was only one other qualification for our district,” Rao said. “So I qualified from there and competed in that for nationals.”

Working alone created a different atmosphere for both Wei and Rao.

“It was just something different you had to learn,” Rao said. “It was a lot more challenging, in terms of in the debate round. Normally in a debate round with a partner, you can prepare responses while your partner is speaking, but because you are constantly speaking in this you have a very limited amount of time to prepare your own speeches. You have to trust yourself.”

The school goes to nationals every year, but this is the first national championship that it has won.

“This is our fifth year in a row to be in the top 10 speech and debate programs in the whole country,” debate coach Kattie Leito said. “We exceeded what we had done previously this year.”

Leito is so grateful for the win.

“I told the kids at practice before we went, that my dream is that one day we could have two students in the main event finals,” Leito said.

The main event finals feature six of the remaining students, and of those one is the national champion.

“But we had four, and two of those students were actually national champions,” she said. “It exceeded every crazy goal we had ever set for the team.”

Wei stresses the fact that her accomplishment was with the help of her team as well.

“It was not just me,” Wei said. “ I was surrounded by incredible people that pushed me to do well. It’s more of a team effort than a singular person.”