Many months of competition culminated in Allstate CPS Conference Championships for the LCC, “A” and “AA” Conferences in the CDL. This year’s Tournament Five was the largest and most competitively balanced in CDL history. The 459 students who competed represented a 9 percent increase over the same tournaments a year ago. Nineteen different schools qualified for the elimination rounds.

The LCC Conference Championships was hosted by Schurz H.S. and Lincoln Park won both divisions by a razor margin: the Lions edged out Urban Prep Charter School for Young Men – Englewood Campus on a split 2-1 decision for the Varsity title and beat out Phoenix Military Academy on another 2-1 in Junior Varsity.

The Conference “A” Championship was hosted by Chicago Ag and Mather defeated Hyde Park Academy for year-long bragging rights in Varsity and Marshall Metro defeated the host school in JV.

Michele Clark hosted the Conference “AA” tournament and the Varsity Championship went to Harlan Community Academy over Westinghouse College Prep and University of Chicago Charter – Woodlawn concluded a dominant year in the JV division by defeating Farragut.

Participant Reactions

Cindy Herrera, a Varsity debater at Hubbard H.S., found her Conference “AA” championship “a challenging and fun experience. It was meaningful to break for the first time as a Varsity debater, but I wanted a speaker award very badly – we lost to a new case, which was challenging, and I learned my lesson that I have to be more prepared next time.”

Luis Hernandez, a debater from Thomas Kelly High School, felt that the LCC Conference Championship “was a phenomenal experience. I will miss every part of the tournament, especially my cohesive bond with my debate partner.”

Adan Meza, a senior at Hubbard High School who recently was accepted to the University of Chicago, said, “The Conference ‘AA’ Championships at Michele Clark provided the standard for a progressive and fun debate tournament. The judges and the students were well-prepared and well-mannered. The debaters showed great sportsmanship even while losing, observing the break rounds and watching their favorite teams going toward the end. The tournament overall was a great success.”

Coach Reactions

Imah Effiong, a first year college counselor and head debate coach at Urban Prep – Englewood said, “Before every tournament, my team tells me how they are going to win the tournament. Tournament Five was no exception. My team defines success as winning and being number one. However, I view success for my team differently. As a very young team with a first year coach, I believe success is about setting high expectations and then proving you can meet and exceed those expectations. While they did not win the tournament, I think my team was successful because they established themselves as serious contenders in the LCC conference and the CDL as a whole, something they needed to prove having risen so quickly through the Conferences. Thinking about the progress they have made through the past four years, I saw their performance at Tournament Five as a springboard for the future of this team and what they deem success.”

Heather Moorehouse, teacher at Marine Math and Science Academy, also talked about the importance of setting goals. “I think the Conference ‘AA’ Championship allowed my students an opportunity to see how much they have grown, both as debaters and students. My debaters set realistic goals and worked really hard to achieve their personal bests. It was neat to see my students at lunch discuss their debate strategies and seek out more experienced teams for advice for their next rounds. Regardless of the awards won, my debaters have stayed engaged and motivated to do their best each and every debate and this is what made Tournament Five successful for Marine.”

Paul Johnson, an attorney and business professional at Kroll Associates in his first year as an external coach at Westinghouse College Prep, reflected on the tournament: “Tournament Five for the Westinghouse debaters was really a milestone. After a season of win-some, lose-some, and then win some more, our debaters really exploded at T5. The one thing I’ve continued to pound home is brand identity and reputation. Yes, we want wins just like everybody else. But whether we’re winning or losing, it’s sportsmanship and integrity that will establish the Westinghouse brand. We may not be the strongest team in the CDL, but I am very encouraged by this year’s crop of debaters. We have a lot to accomplish moving forward, and this first year has unquestionably been a huge step.”

Sean Bhagat of Collins Academy, himself a former debater from Ohio before becoming an educator through Teach for America, found that other teachers and administrators at his school had really taken notice of the debate team. He remarked, “Tournament Five was a great experience. Though it is exhausting to be at a school late Friday nights and early Saturday mornings, every time I hear my students having a passionate conversation about American policy on the Korean Peninsula, or about Turkey’s role as a strategic ally, I know in a small way things are getting better for our students. Our students put in a lot of preparation for T5, they stayed until evenings every day in the week before the tournament to prepare, and their work paid off. Myself, other teachers, and the administration were incredibly proud of the success of our debate team, and excited for the Chicago Debate Championship. Many teachers commented how easy it is to overlook debate in a world dominated by athletic events; yet debate provides specific and tangible skills that our students will take away as they go to college.”

Jessie Mulder, a teacher at Hyde Park Academy, agreed that hard work paid off and found her students even more motivated for challenges to come: “I was really impressed by how well the conference championship tournament was run. The team had a great time, and we were excited by the team’s success. It is always great to know that hard work pays off, and I have been very lucky to be a first year coach with several strong, dedicated and hard-working debaters. We are looking forward to competing at the Chicago Debate Championship, and we hope to end the year on a high note.”

Liz Thompson, English teacher at Mather and a former debater at Illinois State University, sums it all up best with her experience: “Debate tournaments last forever, but when my varsity debaters were pacing around a school library at 10:30 p.m. on a Saturday night dying to know if they won the tournament, I knew it was worth it. Our combined nerves elevated with every minute the judges read over evidence and scrutinized their flows. When they finally declared Mather the winner, I don’t know who was more proud and more excited. There were tears in all of our eyes. My girls [Conference ‘A’ Varsity champions Sophia Sheikh and Janet Rodriguez] worked so hard, and it is the most amazing feeling to watch all their hard work earn them such honors. I have every confidence that they will find success anywhere they go, but I will cherish the memories and victories we’ve shared this year. Debate has shaped who these girls are and has given direction to their inquisitive personalities. Debate has opened doors for my students that they didn’t even know existed, much like my own personal experience with being a debater.”