Super Debate, Superstars

by Ani Janakiraman ’26 and Caleb Kim ’26

Speech and Debate is one of Bellarmine’s most popular and large co-curriculars. On January 21, the team participated in the last league tournament of the season: CFL Super Debate 2. Bellarmine entered in three events: Policy, Lincoln Douglas, and Public Forum. Everyone debated four rounds, and Bellarmine performed well across the board. One team in LD, one team in PF, and multiple teams in Policy went undefeated and qualified for the state qualifiers. Moreover, there were various storylines for many different people. For many freshmen, this was their first varsity tournament ever. For others, this was their last opportunity to qualify for SQUALS (The state qualifying tournament). For the seniors, this was their last league tournament ever. This was essentially “The Last Dance” league tournament for many of the most talented and accomplished members. Here are various people’s experiences from Saturday.


Arshon Keyani ’23 – Varsity LD Captain

Q: When was the turning point for you in Speech & Debate?

A: After my sophomore year, I started off with a pretty strong season, but in the end, when we got to the State Qualifying Tournament, I didn’t do as well as I wanted. That really changed my view on Speech and Debate and made me want to work harder, so the summer after, I worked hard at developing my skills for speech and debate. I worked with the upperclassmen and asked them questions, which I think was the turning point and led to me doing better at tournaments.

Q: What has been the best part of the tournaments?

A: It has been the community by far. Sure, the tournaments and results are cool, but what really matters is the friendships and community we’ve built. An example is at league tournaments. You’re with the whole team, you can hang out between round, and get lunch together. Also, on campus, prepping together and hanging out in the Speech & Debate office, all of these things have led to a really strong sense of community, which is most fun and valuable about S&D: being surrounded by smart, driven, funny people.

Q: Who would you accredit for most of your success?

A: ’21 Eric Gottlieb was most instrumental in helping me get a passion for debate, do well, and get me through the tough losses. He was a junior when I was a freshman, and he’s what made me pick my specific debate event. He worked a lot with me before all my freshmen year tournaments and my sophomore year tournaments. I’m still in touch with him to ask him questions about debate when I need help, or I want to talk to him. I think there have been a lot of upperclassmen like that, but he was probably the primary one, and I think it speaks volumes to how our program creates these kinds of relationships that are super helpful.

Q: Obviously, you go to a lot of prestigious tournaments like Berkeley. What is your mindset as you go in?

A: I think that it changes a bit every time. The way I approach different tournaments depends on what types of judges there are, what the competitor pool is like, how many of my teammates are going, and how much I need to prep. The mindset I try to head into it with is a mindset of not getting bogged down by past losses or how I perceive other people because the truth is that there are a lot of people who are really talented, more talented than me, and have the potential to win, but every single debate round is separate from the other. So, heading into each round and treating it as a blank slate where I’m not intimated by whatever my past results may have been, whatever else happened at the other rounds has really helped me and has made me not feel like shaky but rather excited because after all, we’re all doing this because it’s a fun activity, not really because it’s stressful. I think that stress goes away when you think about debate as a fun thing that we’re all doing, not necessarily as the end all be all.

Q: What would you say has been the most memorable experience over these last four years?

A: The most memorable experience has probably been the National Tournament last year. It was the first in-person National Tournament in a while because of COVID, and we had the biggest squad from our team head down to the National Tournament in many, many years. I think it was 30, and it was really fun. We were in Louisville, Kentucky for a whole week, and Nationals is a really fun tournament because you get to meet people from all over the country, but also, just the sense of community within our own team was really great. You’re obviously not competing for that entire week if you don’t make it to elimination rounds, which means after that, you’re able to hang out with your friends in the hotel room, get dinner together. All of those have been super memorable. Some of the things that stand out to me were especially that trip, the seniors who graduated in 2022, that was their last S&D tournament, which made it really memorable because I was able to hang out with them and build those kinds of friendships and relationships that are going to last.


Public Forum Captain: Owen Botkin ‘23

Q: When did you start debating?

A: “I started debating in my freshman year, since I took the rhetoric course.”

Q: What’s your biggest advice for some of the underclassmen?

A: “My best advice would be to convince the judge and not the opponent. A lot of people get caught up in arguing with their opponents, but in reality, the judge is the person voting, so you have to be able to get your arguments to assure them that you are correct.”

Q: Obviously seeing policy debate as the event with the most members, are you looking to expand the PF team as well?

A: “Yes of course, the event has only been at Bell for two years, so our team is quite small, but we’ve been doing well at the league tournaments.”

Q: What have been your highs and lows throughout your debate career?

A: “[My partner] Joseph and I gotten better at phrasing throughout the years; what went well was that we committed ourselves more and being more willing to do a lot of research and phrasing different arguments. There’s been a lot of growth since my freshman year, and throughout the years, Joseph and I have improved a lot.”

Q: As a senior, how was it to participate in your last league tournament ever?

A: “It ended up going well. My partner and I went 2-2 freshman year at every debate, sophomore year went inconsistently. I picked up PF then, but in junior year I fully committed, and went undefeated at league that year. My senior year, I went 4-0, 3-1, and 4-0 at the three league tournaments. This last one was special because it was the last ‘cherry on top.’”

Q: What do you think debate requires to be successful

A: “Debate requires lots of dedication to be willing to do research and think in-depth of an immense number of arguments. Also, you must think critically, understanding who’s ahead, and opinions on judges. If you hear a new argument at the first time at a tournament, you should know how to think on your feet. I would say thinking quickly is also one of the most important parts of the debate.”

Q: Lastly, what is your favorite part about the Speech and Debate team?

A: “The people because everybody is really nice, and some of the best friends I’ve made have been through Speech and Debate.”

Good luck to Owen and Arshon at the State Qualifying Tournament and hopefully Nationals!


Policy Freshman: Daksh Sharma ‘26

Q: What do you like about policy debate?

A: “There are a couple different aspects of policy debate that are appealing to me. I really like the fact that you have a partner that you share the work within and outside of the round, along with the fact that there is only one resolution throughout the entire year, something that helps a lot with research and constant improvement of cases”

Q: Since you’ve gone to policy tournaments before, how did you see your growth throughout the year?

A: “I think my growth throughout the year was pretty good as at first I was just trying to figure out how policy debate works and the different fundamental aspects of the debate, and soon I got used to it and was able to focus on specific areas to get better in”

Q: How was it like to debate online as opposed to in-person?

A: “Online debate was a lot more boring compared to in-person as I was not able to converse with any other teams and get to meet new people, but as my partner and I met up in the same house, we were able to still work well together.”

Q: How important do you think drills are in preparation for the tournament?

A: “Drills are fundamental in preparation for the tournament as they help you practice and get familiar with the content you will be experiencing throughout the tournament.”

Q: What do you think it takes to be/become a successful policy debater?

A: “To be a successful policy debater, you need a lot of different things. Firstly, you need commitment, meaning you need to be able to dedicate time and effort to policy consistently, even if you are not feeling like it. You also need a lot of patience to wait for results to start showing and a passion for debating.”

Q: How does policy compare to other debate events, or what makes it stand out?

A: “Policy debate has a lot longer rounds and is more analytic-based than other events in debate, such as Lincoln Douglas or Public Forum. It stands out due to the fact that you can work well with a partner in this event and the resolution stays the same for the whole year.”

Q: How was it like working with your partner?

A: We collaborated pretty well, and it was pretty fun working with him – It was a lot more fun than if I would have worked alone.

Q: What do you think went well, and what could you improve on for the next tournament?

A: “I think that our preparation was pretty good for this tournament, as we had finished all our affirmatives and negatives on time. However, we could have put a bit more effort into drills before the tournament so our fluency and practice would be strong.”


So, there we have it folks! In the coming weeks, many Bell S&D’ers, will be working hard and gearing up for the State Qualifying tournament. The Speech and Debate team has a lot to be proud of so far, earning many wildcards. Through the team’s support, effort, and community, many goals will be attainable. Remember- they are not done yet, the final goal is not achieved, and the team hopes to dominate at SQUALS and qualify for Nationals.

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