Debate takes on Grand Qualifiers


photo by Grace Dean

The debate team stands outside of Windemere high school after rounds were finished. Cobb and Tulloch hold their plaques for ranking first and fifth in their events.

After giving her last debate speech at a local circuit in Windermere High School, Emily Cobb sat down. As her two-minute time limit ran out and the sun set, so did her time with the Hagerty debate team.

“[Giving my last speech] was just being surrounded by all these people I knew and I was so happy to see them, this is the same group of people I’ve been with for four years, at this point,” Cobb said. “As my last time ever speaking in the circuit, people were sad, and it was a beautiful last speech .”

Cobb had participated in countless tournaments, but Grand Qualifiers was by far the most challenging, as it was a two-day long tournament that, if won, could pave the way to Nationals. 

“The students participating were very very stressed,” Debate teacher Samantha Ollweiler said. “They had a lot to prep for and it was very competitive.”

Cobb participated in Congress, an event that debates mock Congress bills. Unlike Tulloch, Cobb was given her speech topics a week and a half before the tournament, and had to do 10 hours of debate in less than 24 hours. 

“It was a lot more debate and preparation for this tournament,” Cobb said. “It’s overwhelming, and there’s a lot more people.”

Senior Olivia Tulloch, who participated in the Lincoln-Douglas event, spent months working on her resolution for her event, Lincoln Douglas, an event that is heavy on philosophy and involves a one-on-one debate. 

“[Preparing for the resolution] is a combination of a lot of prep work,” Tulloch said. “Every time I’ve debated it I’ve just prepared more, so if I encounter a person and they have something new that I don’t have, I go home and research it for the next tournament.”

Many students found the tournament challenging, but it also served to better their debate skills. 

“[ I really enjoyed ] just seeing the students get really excited about their rounds when I would walk into the cafeteria to check up on them,” Ollweiler said. “They were planning for future ones, and I loved seeing how they kind of took what they learned from previous rounds and used it to make their future rounds better.”

In-between rounds ,students sat in the cafeteria. The day ended with an award ceremony in Windermere’s auditorium. Tulloch and Cobb were the two students that placed.  They will go to Washington DC for nationals on Memorial Day weekend.

“To me, I had accomplished everything I wanted through debate,” Cobb said. “Now it’s just finishing out the experience, and traveling,” Cobb said. 

After being announced as one of the winners, Tulloch found out through a mass email that she had ranked first. 

“I was excited about going undefeated and placing first, but I was more proud because we’ve worked really really hard on this,” Tulloch said. “When Emily [placed] we were all cheering. I was happy for myself but also happy that we get to go through this together now.” 

At the end of the day, both Tulloch and Cobb agree that they would not be where they were if it wasn’t for the overall support of their team. 

“What contributed most definitely [to our win] was a really supportive team this year,” Tulloch said. “Through the transition of captains running classes and a whole bunch of stuff, it’s just been really good to have the entire support of the team.”