Debate team wins first place at La Costa tournament


Emma Huebner

Seniors Kevin Kunes (left) and Aron Egelko placed first in public forum debate at a tournament in Carlsbad on Sunday. Credit: Bethany Fankhauser/The Foothill Dragon Press.
Seniors Kevin Kunes (left) and Aron Egelko placed first in public forum debate at a tournament in Carlsbad on Sunday. Credit: Bethany Fankhauser/The Foothill Dragon Press.

Seniors Aron Egelko and Kevin Kunes made Foothill Speech & Debate history Sunday when they took first place in public forum debate at La Costa Canyon’s Winter Classic Tournament.

“When we found out we won we were ecstatic,” Egelko said. “It is extremely satisfying to know that all the hours we put in to preparing for the tournament did in fact pay off.”

Three of Foothill’s four public forum teams were among the 16 teams that broke to octafinals. The other teams that made the cut were senior Joseph Castro and junior Adam Braver, as well as sophomore Ana Bello and senior Anaika Miller.

On top of breaking in public forum, Braver also semi-finaled in Extemporaneous speaking. After preparing for 30 minutes, participants give a seven-minute speech on a national or international topic. While they must cite sources in their speech, they cannot use notes.

“It’s made me feel like I can do even better in tournaments in the future,” Braver said. “It’s given me that confidence.”

Debate coach and math teacher Anthony Villa has been developing the debate program at Foothill for six years.

“The team continues to make Mrs. Kindred and I seem well more qualified than we actually are,” Villa said. “They drive us to do better and make us want to do more for them because they are awesome.”

Debate coach and English teacher Jennifer Kindred was equally proud and excited about the team’s accomplishments.

“My exhaustion prevents me from adequately expressing how excited I am,” she said, after returning earlier that morning from the tournament. “If I could jump up and down, I would.”

Egelko and Kunes’ first place performance in public forum debate earned them one “bid” in the Tournament of Champions, the most competitive debate tournament in the nation.

Egelko described it as “the Olympics of Speech and Debate.”

By earning one bid, they are eligible to apply to the Tournament of Champions. If they acquire another bid at the Berkeley tournament in February, they will be guaranteed a spot.

Despite their accomplishment, the debate partners have had little experience working together on public forum debate. They debated together in their freshman year (the 2008-09 school year), but debated with other partners the past two years.

“We print lots of studies in hopes that we’re ready to counter anything, and do lots of practice debates to find holes in the argument,” Kunes said. “It seems like a lot, but the best arguments are thought up the night before your first round in the hotel lobby.”

Public forum is a fact-based type of team debate, modeled after Cross-fire debate TV shows. Cross-examination periods occur during the debate in which one or both of the debaters from each team question the other team after each has had its chance to present its side of the case.

Each public forum debate has a topic, normally based on a current event. Egelko and Kunes’ topic was “Resolved: In the U.S., current income disparities threaten Democratic ideals.”

“The debate is meant to be able to be understood by anyone,” Kunes said. “Basically it’s a game of cooperation and communication.”

Egelko and Kunes also participate in Duel Interpretation (Duo), one of four Interpretation events where participants act out a ten-minute scene, usually cut from full length scripts. They performed “The Odd Couple” by Neil Simon this past weekend.

“We were pretty shocked and incredibly stoked when we made it to Semifinals, because we had really only been working on it for a week and a half,” Egelko said.

“Some of the best coaches in the nation are running around asking about this little unheard of school in California south of Santa Barbara, led by an English teacher with a chicken collection and a Calculus teacher with an attitude,” Kunes said. “They’re asking because this unheard of school is flooding the final rounds. That is a cool feeling.”

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