Foothill debaters invited to national-circuit tournament


Glenda Marshall

Seniors Aron Egelko and Kevin Kunes show off the quarterfinal plates that they earned last weekend at UC Berkeley's high school debate tournament. Credit: Aysen Tan/The Foothill Dragon Press.
Seniors Aron Egelko and Kevin Kunes show off the quarterfinal plates that they earned last weekend at UC Berkeley’s high school debate tournament. Credit: Aysen Tan/The Foothill Dragon Press.

Seniors Aron Egelko and Kevin Kunes are raking in the records this year on the Foothill Speech and Debate team.

Their most recent victory took place this past weekend at the UC Berkeley Invitational tournament when they broke to quarterfinals in public forum debate, putting them in the top eight of 304 teams. Their topic was “Resolved: Birthright citizenship should be abolished in the United States.”

“It was kind of surreal,” Egelko said. “When they told us the decision, I was just shocked. I was in disbelief.”

During the tournament, debaters began by participating in eight preliminary competitions. The teams who break through those rounds progressed to the triple-octofinals. If they again prevailed as the winners of that round they moved to the double-octofinals. The process continued through the octofinals, quarterfinals, semifinals, and eventually to the final round.

Until this weekend, the farthest any Foothill debate partners had advanced in public forum at the UC Berkeley Invitational was to the triple-octofinal round.

“This is considered one of the biggest tournaments if not the biggest tournament on the west coast,” said sophomore debater Joshua Ward. “Doing well is a very big deal.”

This win also guaranteed the team a place in the most competitive debate tournament in the nation: the Tournament of Champions.

“[The Tournament of Champions] is huge. It’s flipping huge,” said senior and debate team member Joseph Castro. “It’s bigger than nationals. The people who win nationals get invited to the Tournament of Champions. That’s how big it is.”

Egelko and Kunes are the first Foothill debate team to ever ensure themselves a spot in the Tournament of Champions.

“Not only are we the first to break quarterfinals at Berkeley, not only are we the first to place first at La Costa, not only are we the first to get one bid much less two, we are the first to get a spot in the Tournament of Champions,” Kunes said.

Admittance to the tournament can be gained by receiving two “bids” at smaller debate tournaments. After receiving their first bid back in December at La Costa Canyon’s Winter Classic Tournament, Egelko and Kunes needed to break the octofinals at UC Berkeley to obtain their second bid and be assured a spot in the Tournament of Champions.

Although their spot is reserved, Egelko and Kunes are still unsure if they will be able to attend due to financial complications.

“There is a good chance we probably won’t be able to go just because it is about $1,000.00 per person, but it is exciting to be invited,” Egelko said.

“Whether or not we attend really depends on how much we raise at the April Festival of Fools event the speech and debate team hosts every year. If we can raise enough money this year, hopefully we will be able to go,” Kunes said.

At the Berkeley tournament, things did not start out well for the debate team co-presidents who both admitted their hopes of breaking the octofinals and getting their second bid started to dwindle after the first day of the tournament.

“By the end of the first day, we weren’t so sure [if we would qualify],” Kunes said. “We had already lost the maximum number of rounds that you could lose.”

“It was very disheartening. We had lost three rounds- two of which were fine, we weren’t surprised- but the other one we literally lost because the judge was racist, and we were really mad about that,” Egelko said.

Despite feeling that the verdict was unfair, the duo moved past their anger and did not give up.

“A lot of speech and debate is bad-mouthing the judges, so we did a lot of that… We knew we were good debaters so we stuck to that,” Egelko said.

At the end of the second day, only the debaters who broke to triple-octofinals were invited to return the third day.

“Aron came into my room the night we were packing to leave [the end of the second day] and said ‘Kevin, I hope you didn’t pack your suit because we broke octofinals,’” Kunes said.

Things went uphill from there for Kunes and Egelko who surpassed the triple-octafinal round and moved all the way on to quarterfinals.

“On Monday, we were the sixty-fourth seed and we went up against the first seed and we won,” Egelko said. “So that was an interesting result.”

Senior Anaika Miller and junior Luke Ballmer were the only other Foothill debaters to advance past the preliminary rounds, reaching the triple-octofinals. They placed thirty-first out of the 304 teams.

Debate coach Anthony Villa is proud of both teams and wishes Kevin and Aron the best.

“They definitely make me look like a better debate coach than I am,” he said.  “I really hope they, number one, enjoy their time [at the Tournament of Champions] because it is not about winning, but also remember that their records represent what great debaters they truly are.”

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