NCFL "GRAND NATIONALS" NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP, CHICAGO: Wellington's Public Forum Debate team of Greg Foster & Kevin Murphy advanced to the double-octafinal round of competition at the 2014 CatNats in Chicago over Memorial Day Weekend before dropping on a 2-1 decision. They ranked 22nd overall out of nearly 250 of the top teams in the nation, and were the highest-finishing team from Palm Beach County. The team of Vinnie Gasso & Caitlyn Konopka placed 52nd overall. Additionally, freshman Gillian Kruisland earned her National Forensic League Degree of Distinction, surpassing 250 points.
PBCFL "GRAND FINALS" NATIONAL QUALIFIER @ W.T. DWYER: Wellington Debate set multiple team records at the 2014 Palm Beach Catholic Forensic League "Grand Finals" national championship qualifier tournament Saturday, March 29, at William T. Dwyer High School.
A dozen Wolverines will invade the Windy City over Memorial Day Weekend to compete at this year's NCFL national championship - the most ever to represent Wellington at CatNats.
In addition, Wellington took first place overall in three events at Grand Finals - Congressional Debate, Lincoln Douglas Debate, and Public Forum Debate. It was the most first-place finishes Wellington has achieved at the national qualifier.
In Congressional Debate, junior Michael Leatherman earned the top spot among nearly 50 students, 19 of whom advanced to the final round. Three other Wellington debaters - junior Kwadjo Walker, sophomore Victor Sanchez, and freshman Pallavi Taneja - also advanced to the finals of Congressional Debate.
In Lincoln Douglas Debate, senior Yourui Ruan went 5-0 in taking first place. And in Public Forum Debate, the team of seniors Vinnie Gasso & Caitlyn Konopka also went 5-0 in taking top honors.
In PFD, seniors Greg Foster & Kevin Murphy, and freshmen Gillian Kruisland & Caramen McDaniel, also qualified.
Wellington also has a pair of Duo Interpretation competitive acting teams qualify for Chicago: senior Dylan Race & sophomore Savannah Race (performing "Employees Must Wash Hands ... Before Murder" by Don Zolidis), and sophomores Antoinette Gray & Cameron Harker (performing Neil Simon's "Barefoot in the Park").
Three additional National Forensic League honor degrees were earned by Wellington. Dylan Race surpassed 500 points (Degree of Special Distinction), Olivia Davy passed the 250-point level (Degree of Distinction), and Pallavi Taneja earned her Degree of Honor by passing hte 75-point mark. Wellington now has 266 total degrees, most in the Florida Oceanfront NFL District.
FLORIDA OCEANFRONT NFL DISTRICT NATIONAL QUALIFIER: Wellington Debate will be rockin' in Kansas City this June! Heading to the National Forensic League Speech & Debate National Championship are Greg Foster & Vinnie Gasso in Public Forum Debate and Kwadjo Walker in Congressional Debate (Senate). Walker also qualified in US Extemporaneous Speaking.
First Alternate Wolverines are Dylan Race & Savannah Race in Duo Interpretation, Casey Mangini in Original Oratory, Dylan Race in Dramatic Interpretation, and Greg Foster in Lincoln Douglas Debate.
FFL STATE CHAMPIONSHIP @ UNIVERSITY SCHOOL: The Public Forum Debate team of Vinnie Gasso & Kevin Murphy advanced to quarterfinals at the 2014 Florida Forensic League State Championship.
LIBERTY BELL CLASSIC @ UPENN: Wellington Debate had much success at the 2014 UPenn Liberty Bell Classic! In Public Forum a debate, the team of Greg Foster & Kevin Murphy advanced to quarters, and Murphy was recognized as the tournament's 10th-best overall speaker (out of nearly 200 competitors). In Congressional Debate, Michael Leatherman advanced to finals, and Kwadjo Walker to semis.
In the PFD Round Robin, the team of Foster-Murphy advanced to finals in a coach over against semifinalists Vinnie Gasso & Caitlyn Konopka. Murphy was top speaker in the RR, while Gasso and Foster were 4th and 5th speakers.
Wellington earned four more National Forensic League degrees. Foster surpassed 1,000 NFL service points and earned his Degree of Outstanding Distinction. Murphy passed the 750-point Degree of Superior Distinction level. Gillian Kruisland earned her Degree of Excellence (150 points), and David Gold achieved his Degree of Honor (75 points).
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF STATE HIGH SCHOOL ASSOCIATIONS: I don't like tooting my own horn, because what I do isn't about me, and never has been about me. It's about my students and the positive impact a debate, speech and forensic arts program provides all students, regardless of the schools they represent. Still, I have opted to post this email from Florida Forensic League President Carol Cecil. I am humbled and honored to represent my peers and our programs.
I would like to share with you that Paul Gaba, from Wellington HS and our VP/Webmaster has been chosen for a National Federation of High Schools Speech, Debate and Theatre Association Award. Paul Gaba has been selected by the NFHS Speech Advisory Committee to receive a Section 3 award representing Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. We hope to be able to present Paul with his NFHS Plaque at FFL Varsity State. Paul will also be recognized in a feature-length article in a future issue of the on-line edition of the NFHS magazine, High School Today.
COMBO TOURNAMENT - PBCFL & FLORIDA OCEANFRONT NFL CONGRESS @ WEST BOCA: The Wellington #reddawndebaters had a solid showing at the combination PBCFL Speech-Debate/Florida Oceanfront NFL Congress tournament at West Boca HS on Saturday. In PUBLIC FORUM DEBATE, the team of Vinnie Gasso & Caitlyn Konopka took first place with a 4-0 record, and earned 117 out of a possible 120 speaker points. In DRAMATIC PERFORMANCE, Dylan Race placed first as well. The DUO INTERPRETATION team of Antoinette Gray & Cameron Harker took third. In CONGRESS, Kwadjo Walker is 2nd Alternate in the Senate, while both Ross Lustgarten and Connor Schwinghammer are 3rd Alternates from their respective House chambers.
Wellington earned six new NFL degrees and memberships (not including any out of Congress, since the results need to be audited by the NFL before Congress points can be entered). Katelan Beharry, Hunter Godfrey and Zion Peterson each earned their NFL Degree of Merit, and their certificates should arrive by February 20th. Connor Yeackley earned his Degree of Honor, and both Gray and Caramen McDaniel earned their Degree of Excellence.
FFL MACAW @ PARK VISTA: Wellington ROCKED the FFL Macaw district tourney at Park Vista! Heading to the state championship - the Public Forum Debate team of Vinnie Gasso & Kevin Murphy; Mya Smith in US Extemporaneous Speaking; and the Group Interpretation quartet of Roland Kupoluyi, Kasey Mangini, Alan Radcliff, and Gabby Vivas!
BARKLEY FORUM @ EMORY UNIVERSITY: Greg Foster and Kevin Murphy advanced to octafinals in Public Forum Debate at the 59th Annual Barkley Forum for High School Students at Emory University. Foster was also recognized as 20th speaker in PFD.
PBCFL @ PALM BEACH GARDENS The #reddawndebaters scored numerous significant successes at the January 18 PBCFL at Palm Beach Gardens. In Lincoln Douglas Debate, Yourui Ruan went 4-0 and placed 1st overall. In Public Forum Debate, Foster Greg & Kevin Murphy went 4-0 and took 2nd, while Alexa Fortuna & Robin Eisenson went 3-1 and placed 5th. Vinnie Gasso & Stephie Maravankin also went 3-1 and ranked 9th. In Congressional Debate, Connor Schwinghammer placed 2nd in his chamber, and Mike Leatherman 3rd in his chamber. Two first-year debaters, Victor Sanchez and Pallavi Taneja, each placed 7th. The Duo Interpretation team of Antoinette Gray & Cameron Harker placed 4th, and in Novice Oral Interpretation, Kasey Mangini placed 8th overall.
Wellington earned three more National Forensic League degrees. Eisenson earned her Degree of Distinction by surpassing the 250-point mark, while both Mangini and Sanchez earned the Degree of Honor by exceeding the 75-point level. Both have earned their varsity letter as well. Wellington now has 237 degrees on record and has earned 51 this year so far.
SUNVITATIONAL @ UNIVERSITY SCHOOL: The Public Forum Debate team of Kevin Murphy & Foster Greg advanced to octofinals before falling on a 2-1 ballot, while the PFD team of Vinnie Gasso & Stephie Maravankin went 4-2 and missed breaking out of prelim rounds on a speaker points tiebreaker. The Duo Interp pair of Dylan Race & Savannah Race narrowly missed on advancing as well. Both novice PFD teams (Michael Gasso & Mason Graham, and Gillian Kruisland & Carrie McDaniel) went 3-3.
Wellington earned five new National Forensic League advanced degrees and now has an Oceanfront District-leading 234. Stephie Maravankin became the third Wellington Debate competitor to ever surpass the 1,500-point Degree of Premier Distinction degree. Kwadjo Walker earned his Degree of Special Distinction (500+ points). Lauren Melton earned her Degree of Excellence (150+ points). And both Michael Gasso & Mason Graham earned the Degree of Honor (75+ points) and will receive their varsity debate letters at the spring banquet.
PBCFL FUNVITATIONAL @ JENSEN BEACH: Wellington's #reddawndebaters had an extremely successful Funvitational at Jensen Beach High School: in SpAr, Ross Lustgarten placed 4th and Mike Leatherman 5th; in Public Forum Debate, the team of Michael Gasso and Mason Graham went 3-1 and placed 6th; in Extemporaneous, Mya Smith took 6th; and in Congressional Debate, six Wellington debaters earned seven accolades - Alex Kaiser 2nd, Daryl Denton 3rd, Pallavi Taneja 4th, Victor Sanchez 6th, Zion Peterson 6th, and both Sanchez and Rachel Diaz gavels as their chambers' top PO.
Additionally, in Duo Interpretation, the team of Asia Jarvis and Gabrielle Vivas finished 8th, while the pair of Roland Tingue Kupoluyi and Agustin Puga was 9th. In Extemporaneous Duo, Antoinette Gray and Cameron Harker placed 8th, and Lauren Melton and Dylan Race 10th.
Wellington earned six new National Forensic League degrees: Kaiser, Gillian Kruisland and Carrie McDaniel each earned their Degree of Honor, while David Gold, Puga and Vivas each earned their Degree of Merit. Wellington has now earned 43 new degrees this year, and has 229 degrees on record.
PATRIOT GAMES @ GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: This past weekend was the 10th Annual Patriot Games Classic on the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. It was the sixth consecutive year Wellington Debate was in attendance, and to understand why this is my favorite tournament of the year, you need to understand what happened the first time we attended (December 2008), and how GMU Director of Forensics Peter Pober positively and drastically influenced my life in one fell swoop.
During our first visit to GMU, one of my juniors was paired up in Public Forum Debate with a student from another area school (a hybrid entry). Because of an incident that took place that Friday (the day before the tournament), my student decided to quit the competition and head back to Florida ... with his mother's approval (she booked his flight and limo ride to the airport) ... while at the same time refusing to give the partner he ditched any of the research or cases he had on his computer. (He refused to give this information up despite my insistence he do so.)
With the non-Wellington debater in tears, I told her I would talk to Peter and we would try to come up with some sort of solution. I had never met him, but knew his reputation as a student-first debate coach from his days in the School District of Palm Beach County 30+ years before. When final registration opened that night, I approached Peter and explained the situation. Without hesitation, he offered a variety of options to solve the problem, including letting her switch events, allowing another student to partner with her from a different event, finding another partner for her if we couldn't find her one, or even letting her "maverick" (debate solo) in PFD.
"She will compete," he told me.
This last-minute flexibility, to ensure a student who dropped around $400 for a weekend in the nation's capital would participate, blew me away. At that point, I had been coaching maybe half a dozen years, and had never encountered a more pro-student coach. I was just hoping some sort of resolve could be achieved; after all, it would have been real easy for him (or anyone trying to finalize a major national tournament) to say, "Look, the tourney starts in 10 hours, there's no way we can accommodate such changes last-minute."
But he didn't do that. Instead, he bent over backwards to ensure she would have as positive an experience as possible.
I looked at Peter after we had resolved the issue and told him, "You have me for life."
(Sidebar: she did compete, with a student from a third school, and both represented Wellington on stage to receive recognition for advancing to tournament break rounds ... despite having to put together research and cases from scratch between midnight and 3 am in my hotel room ... and despite her new partner having never done PFD before that tournament.)
So for six years now, Wellington has attended GMU. We've had many successes, peppered with a few moments that made me question whether to remain in teaching, let alone coaching, let alone my sanity ... but for the most part, it's been a good run.
In 2012, Peter invited me to assist in the debate/congress tabulation room, which I accepted. This year, with a virtually novice crew, I was excited about the experience our students would receive, helping to bridge a vibrant past with a solid-looking future. But even I was not prepared for what would be, for me, one of the most amazing highlights of my 14+ year debate coaching career.
At the end of the GMU tournament awards ceremony Sunday night, Peter recognized five new Patriot Games "Mason Mentors," an honor bestowed upon by him to debate coaches he respects for their work ethic, their dedication to debate and student achievement, and their positive impact on the forensic community as a whole. The list of past recipients reads like a "who's who" of debate coaching: Tony Figliola (Holy Ghost Prep, PA), Tom Durkin (Loyola-Blakefield, MD), David Yastremski (Ridge, NJ), Steve Medoff (Pennsbury, PA), Harry Strong (Des Moines Roosevelt, IA), Mary Schick (Krop, FL), Beth Goldman (Taravella, FL), Michael Vigars (Trinity Prep, FL), Alexandra Sencer (Lake Mary Prep, FL), Steve Meadows (Danville, KY), Robert Sheard (Durham Scademy, NC), Bro. Kevin Tidd (Delbarton School, NJ), and Kristie Taylor (Jupiter, FL), are just a few of the amazing coaches who have been recognized as Mason Mentors. Many are individuals Peter has known for decades; all are known nationally as coaches who put student needs and achievements above their own interests.
On Sunday night, I was honored to have my name added to the impressive list of coaches past and present who are Mason Mentors.
I am humbled beyond belief by the accolade. Writing this commentary is extremely difficult for me, because i have never been one to tout my professional or personal successes. When I was recognized as Florida Forensic League Coach of the Year in 2012, I think I included the honor as a pseudo-afterthought in my email about that year's FFL Varsity State results. Because it's never been about me, it's about the students, and how to ensure they have the best possible positive opportunities for knowledge and success.
In Peter's comments to the large audience leading into the announcement (and I wish I had a video recording of it!), he spoke of his experiences in Palm Beach with former Twin Lakes/Wellington coach Dale McCall, and the close association they had in the local debate community. He spoke of her building a nationally-recognized program, and how difficult it is to maintain that program after a successful coach leaves that leadership position. And that since taking over the Wellington program in 2002, I have strived to provide a successful learning opportunity for my students, both locally and nationally. He described me as "modest" (which I am) and "quiet" (which implies he may need to get to know me a bit better).
I now have a nice miniature bust of George Mason in my classroom, next to my engraved 2012 FFLCOY vase. But more importantly, this represents a total team effort. While I may have received recognition for my dedication to the forensic arts, I could never have achieved this without the proactive involvement of current and former debaters, their families, administration, and fellow debate coaches. Thank you for believing in me, as I believe in you :)
SFCFL @ G. HOLMES BRADDOCK The Duo Interpretation team of Dylan Race & Savannah Race placed second at the South Florida Catholic Forensic League tournament at G. Holmes Braddock High School on Saturday, November 16.
PBCFL @ WELLINGTON SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 9, WAS ONE OF THE BEST DAYS I'VE HAD IN MY 14-YEAR CAREER AS A HIGH SCHOOL DEBATE COACH!
FIRST, let's talk about the absolutely AMAZING job our parent and student volunteers did in hosting the November 2013 PBCFL. The Wellington Debate parent volunteer force, which was deep and strong in numbers, was led by Robyn and Vince Gasso, who coordinated a virtually flawless tournament. Our judge lounge and concession stand were organized and ran as smoothly as possible. Our lunch line was effectively operated. The tab room was well stocked. I heard zero - ZERO - complaints or concerns from coaches, judges or parents from any school about any aspect of running the tournament. THANK YOU TO ALL OF OUR PARENTS WHO HELPED SET UP AND RUN THE TOURNAMENT, MADE DONATIONS, JUDGED ROUNDS, AND OFFERED SUPPORT IN SO MANY OTHER WAYS!
Our Wellington Debate student volunteer force, led by Alexa Fortuna and Stephie Maravankin, was equally efficient. From student judges to those who helped with the lunch line, selling snacks, keeping the judge lounge stocked, running ballots, moved supplies around, and kept the campus clean, we had a phenomenal Saturday, and I hope all of you realize how wonderful it is to see you take charge and achieve greater results than imaginable. I am so very proud of your work today, and I hope you are as well. THANK YOU TO ALL OF OUR STUDENTS WHO HELPED MAKE SATURDAY'S PBCFL TOURNAMENT THE SMOOTHEST-RUN OPERATION WE HAVE EVER HOSTED!
Our competitors also did a wonderful job representing Wellington Debate. The Duo Interpretation team of Dylan Race & Savannah Race picket fenced the event and placed first overall. The novice Duo of Nancy Foti & Asia Jarvis finished 10th overall, and the Duo of Hayleigh Hansen & Lauren Melton took 11th overall. In Novice Public Forum Debate, the team of Daryl Denton & Alex Kaiser went 4-0 and took 2nd place. In Congressional Debate, three students - Robin Eisenson, Victor Sanchez, and Pallavi Taneja - each placed fourth in their chambers. Eisenson and Deborah Colimon each won gavels as their chamber's top presiding officer.
Wellington earned a TON of new National Forensic League degrees at the tournament. Both Dylan Race and Savannah Race earned the 250-point Degree of Distinction; Deborah Colimon achieved the 150-point Degree of Excellence; and a PLETHORA of first-year students earned their Degree of Merit competing today: Wyatt Boswell, Jessica DeLaura, Daryl Denton, Brianna Fortuna, Nancy Foti, Alex Kaiser, Shelly Kaleita, Gillian Kruisland, Roland Kupoluyi, Caramen McDaniel, Victor Sanchez, Mya Smith, Pallavi Taneja, and Connor Yeackley. In addition, Maria Alvarez, Rebecca Torres, and Antoinette Gray have all earned new degrees this week. Wellington now has 220 degrees on record, and has earned 34 this year.
TITAN INVITATIONAL @ NOVA HS: At the Nova Titan Invitational November 8-9, the Public Forum Debate team of Vinnie Gasso & Kevin Murphy went 8-2 and advanced to semifinals, and the team of Greg Foster & Yourui Ruan went 5-3 and advanced to octofinals. Foster earned his Degree of Superior Distinction, passing the 750-point plateau.
FALL OPEN @ UNIVERSITY SCHOOL: Wellington Debate was small in numbers but big on results today at the University School Fall Open on November 2, where the Duo Interpretation team of Dylan Race & Savannah Race (Wellington's only competitors) placed second overall.
FLORIDA BLUE KEY INVITATIONAL: After a year of non-attendance due to weather concerns, Wellingotn Debate returned to the Florida Blue Key Invitational on October 25-27. In Public Forum Debate, Greg Foster and Vinnie Gasso advanced to octafinals, and Yourui Ruan was eighth in speaker awards. In Congressional Debate, Stephie Maravankin advanced to semifinals.
PBCFL @ LAKE WORTH! The #reddawndebaters kicked butt and took names at the second PBCFL tournament of the season Saturday, October 12, taking home the following hardware: VARSITY DUO INTERPRETATION: the team of Dylan Race and Savannah Race took FIRST PLACE, picket fencing their four rounds and scoring 398 out of 400 speaker points. PUBLIC FORUM DEBATE: Vinnie Gasso and Caitlyn Konopka went 3-1 and placed SECOND out of 30 teams. The team of Sabrina Pia Abesamis and Yourui Ruan also went 3-1, placing 10th. VARSITY EXTEMPORANEOUS SPEAKING: Greg Foster finished THIRD in his first Extemporaneous Speaking competition. CONGRESSIONAL DEBATE: Kevin Murphy finished SECOND in his chamber, and Robin Eisenson finished SIXTH. Eisenson, Deborah Colimon and Connor Schwinghammer each took home gavels as their chambers' respective top presiding officer. (Earning at least one judge rank, but not placing, were legislators Wyatt Boswell, Rachel Diaz, Zion Peterson, Colimon, and Victor Sanchez.) EARNING THE FIRST NATIONAL FORENSIC LEAGUE MEMBERSHIPS OF THE 2013-14 NOVICE CLASS were Rachel Diaz, Asia Jarvis, and Kasey Mangini.
CRESTIAN TRADITION @ CYPRESS BAY: Wellington had impressive results at the inaugural Crestian Tradition at Cypress Bay High School October 5-6: Stephie Maravankin was a finalist in Congressional Debate, and placed 2nd in the tournament's Congress round robin; Greg Foster and Vinnie Gasso advanced to double-octafinals in Public Forum Debate, and were semifinalists in the PFD round robin; and Mike Leatherman advanced to semifinals in Congressional Debate, and hit the National Forensic League's 1,000-point Degree of Outstanding Distinction plateau.
PBCFL @ SEMINOLE RIDGE: HOW DID WELLINGTON FARE AT THE SEPTEMBER PBCFL CONGRESSIONAL SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, AT SEMINOLE RIDGE HIGH SCHOOL? Funny you should ask! In the NOVICE division ... FIVE debaters took home accolades! Alex Kaiser took first-place honors in the Escambia County House; Daryl Denton placed second in the Gadsden County House; Kasey Mangini finished third in the Flagler County House; Connor Yeackley placed fifth in the Alachua County House; and Gillian Kruisland took fifth in the Gadsden County House. In the VARSITY division ... ANOTHER FIVE debaters earned tournament hardware! Ross Lustgarten placed fourth in the Cinco Bayou Senate and earned a Chamber's Choice Presiding Officer gavel in the Osceola County House; Kwadjo Walker finished fourth in the Fort Walton Beach Senate and took home two Chamber's Choice PO gavels (in the Fort Walton Beach Senate and Collier County House); Kevin Murphy finished fifth in the Everglades City Senate;Robin Eisenson earned a pair of Chamber's Choice gavels (Brevard County House and Hillsborough County House); and Connor Schwinghammer (Bal Harbour Senate) won a Chamber's Choice PO gavel. Also ranked by at least one of the four judges in their respective chambers were 11 more Wellington debaters: Wyatt Boswell, Deborah Colimon, Jessica DeLaura, Jonathan De Laura, Rachel Diaz, Asia Jarvis, Caraman McDaniel, Dylan Race, Kayla Sotomayor, Pallavi Taneja, and Gabriela Vivas. Additionally, five Wellington debaters earned advanced National Forensic League degrees. Yourui Ruan surpassed the National Forensic League's 1,000-point plateau, earning his Degree of Outstanding Distinction. Murphy hit the 500-point Degree of Special Distinction milestone. Jonathan De Laura earned the 250-point Degree of Distinction degree. Eisenson earned her Degree of Excellence (150-point level). And Schwinghammer earned his Degree of Honor, and will receive his varsity debate letter at the spring banquet. All in all, a pretty wonderful day! Wellington ROCKED THE HAUS!
YALE: Wellington sent five students to New Haven, Connecticut, the weekend of September 20-22, and all five scored impressive records. The Public Forum Debate team of Greg Foster and Vinnie Gasso went 5-1 in prelims and were ranked 16th overall before falling in triple-octos to Miami Beach on a 2-1 ballot. The Public Forum Debate team of Mike Leatherman and Yourui Ruan went 4-2 in prelims and were ranked 38th overall before falling in triple-octos to Newton South on a 3-0 decision. And in Congressional Debate, Kwadjo Walker made the board in his preliminary chamber. Next up - the 2013 PBCFL Congressional at Seminole Ridge on Saturday, Sept. 28!