State Champions: Speech & Debate’s Victory at the AIA State Tournament


Photo courtesy of Natasha Zimmerman.

Last weekend, ACP’s Speech & Debate team were crowned State Champions after a series of various triumphant wins at the Division 2 AIA State Speech & Debate Tournament. Sebastian Javadpoor was State Champ in Congressional Debate; in Poet Interpretation, Daynah Andrews placed as a State Champ; in Duet Acting, partners Sebastian Javadpoor and Natasha Zimmerman also became State Champs; in Public Forum Debate, duo Damien Rivera and Sharmila Nimbkar and duo Skylar Hudson and Ananya Lakhotia were each respectively Co-State Champions. (To see all of the individual winners and their categories, check below).

Natasha Zimmerman (12) not only became a State Champion with her partner Sebastian, but also placed 2nd in Informative Speech. To gain some insight in the interworking of Speech & Debate, I asked Natasha for a quick interview. She happily complied:

Q: How did you guys feel once you found out that you were State Champions?

A: Speech & Debate works in an interesting way: they don’t announce who wins and just send everyone home. At this particular tournament, they announced the top eight schools in the state. That means that we were holding our breath through the entire announcement and hoping not to hear our names come up. By the time they announced second place, and it wasn’t us, we knew we’d taken first in state, we but had to show good sportsmanship and wait to celebrate until they officially announced us first.

Natasha Zimmerman and Carrie H with their medals after the tournament. Photo courtesy of Natasha Zimmerman.

I don’t know if I can speak for the rest of the team, but the moment that they announced second and our names weren’t called, and you could hear the entire team suck in a breath trying not to celebrate prematurely, made the entire season feel worth it. Speech & Debate requires an insane amount of effort, and there’s a lot of subjectivity in it, so the season is more or less a roller coaster of triumphs and disappointments and a LOT of exhaustion…but having the entire auditorium on their feet to celebrate our win made all the hard work and disappointment and sleep deprivation feel worth it.

Q: What categories did you compete in?

A: At this tournament specifically, I competed in Informative Speaking and Duet Acting. This tournament only allows two speech entries instead of three, so I chose Duet for placement potential and informative for its sentimental value. Informative Speaking is a 10 minute memorized speech with visual aids on a topic of the speaker’s choosing; mine was on the cultural significance of the color pink (2nd Place Overall). Duet Acting is a 10 minute memorized theatrical performance using a published script; I competed with Sebastian Javadpoor with the script “Forensics Marriage” by Kathleen Nelson (1st Overall).

Q: How long have you been prepping for this tournament?

A: I only compete in memorized events, and there’s no limit to the number of times you can compete with a piece in a specific season, so I’ve been prepping for this tournament since April of 2019.

Natasha with Yoojin Han, who. Photo courtesy of Natasha Zimmerman.

I decided not to compete at the TOC or NIETOC (two National, post-season tournaments) after state last year, so I began researching and drafting my informative speech for the 2019-2020 season at the beginning of quarter four. I actually went through four informative speeches this year trying to find the right topic for state, and I finally settled on a speech in January of this year. Duet Acting began prep over the summer, and we found our piece about halfway through first quarter.

Q: What does a typical tournament consist of?

A: A typical tournament consists of around 14 hours per day of competition. Congressional Debate begins at 8 A.M. on Friday, and bleeds into the other debate forms (Public Forum, Lincoln Douglas, Policy, and Big Question) at around 3:30 Friday afternoon. After four preliminary rounds of debate, debaters go home, sleep for a few hours, and wake up early for three preliminary speech rounds at 8 A.M. on Saturday. Out Rounds for Debate (elimination rounds for those whose win/loss record was quality enough to move on in the tourney) begin at noon, then Speech breaks (like Debate out rounds, but for Speech) begin around 2 P.M.. After around 4 P.M., Debate Out Rounds and two Speech breaks, usually around 7 P.M., the awards ceremony starts, where finalists are invited onstage to receive their trophies and the results of finals in front of all their peers. We usually get back to ACP around 9 or 10 P.M..

Q: How did you celebrate your wins?

A: We celebrated with about a half-hour long picture session, then went to Jack in the Box and McDonald’s for dinner. The team was excited, but it was one of the most tiring tournaments of the year because of the travel, so there wasn’t too much celebration.

Q: What did you enjoy the most?

Zoe Soderquist (left) with ACP Class of 2019 alumnus Miranda Vega (right), who judges for tournaments. Photo courtesy of Natasha Zimmerman.

A: I enjoyed finding out about Debate breaks the most. I only compete in Speech events and usually have to work on Fridays, so I don’t usually get to see what happens with Debate prelims. Four of our PF teams broke to quarterfinals, four of our LDers broke to quarters, and every single one of our BQ competitors broke, so it was one of the most exciting breaks of the season. It was amazing getting to be there with all the energy in the room.

Thank you to Natasha for such an informative and interesting interview! Congratulations to all the Speech & Debate participants on such a victorious achievement! We can’t wait to see the results of your next tournament!

Award Winners:

Congressional Debate

  1. Sebastian Javadpoor (State Champion)
  2. Yibo Chen (3rd Place)

Public Forum Debate

  1. Damien Rivera & Sharmila Nimbkar (Co-state Champions)
  2. Skylar Hudson & Ananya Lakhotia (Co-state Champions)
  3. Sebastian Javadpoor & Blake Enwiller

Lincoln Douglas Debate

  1. Zoe Soderquist (2nd Place)
  2. Delaney Krieger (3rd Place)

Big Question Debate

  1. Yibo Chen (3rd Place)

Original Oratory

  1. Ananya Lakhotia (2nd Place)
  2. Yoojin Han (4th Place)

Informative Speech

  1. Natasha Zimmerman (2nd Place)
  2. Yoojin Han (4th Place)

Extemporaneous Speech

  1. Damien Rivera (3rd Place)
  2. Sebastian Javadpoor (4th Place)
  3. Carrie Hu  (5th Place)
  4. Sharmila Nimbkar (6th Place)

Humorous Interpretation

  1. Daniel Merritt (2nd Place)
  2. Sean Leinenweber (4th Place)

Dramatic Interpretation

  1. Maddie Rumsey (2nd Place)
  2. Orchee Syed (4th Place)
  3. Brandon Pham (5th Place)

Poetry Interpretation

  1. Daynah Andrews (State Champion)
  2. Maddie Rumsey (2nd Place)

Prose Interpretation

  1. Pauline Kousoulas (4th Place)

Duet Acting

  1. Natasha Zimmerman & Sebastian Javadpoor (State Champions)
  2. Daniel Merritt & Ali Shah (2nd Place)
  3. Nicole Lee & Orchee Syed (4th Place)
  4. Skylar Hudson & Ananya Lakhotia (6th Place)