Congressional Debate team prepares for State tournament

Plans for numerous national competitions in March


Reagan Pohl

Debate members discuss their research, and prepare for upcoming debate competition at practice on Jan. 24 at SC library (Pohl/LION).

Elin O'Brien, Reporter

This season, Congressional Debate has three of the top 30 debaters in the Illinois Debate Association. These three individuals have contributed much to the overall score of the team, club sponsor Tom Swinotek said. After making it to the championship last year in March, Swinotek is sure that this season will be no different.

“We have a very solid team from the seniors to the freshmen, who have consistently been receiving high scores in the chambers, while also winning awards,” Swinotek said.

The team has been placing more frequently than other schools at debates. Qualifying for better tournaments, the team is also sending members out to national competitions, including three to the Harvard National Convention, three to the Tournament of Champions, and possibly three to nationals, Benjamin Dreves-Hunt ‘24 said. 

The vast majority of the schools that attend debate tournaments are Naperville and Northshore schools.

“Competing against schools with good academic reputations makes the whole experience very exciting and challenging,” Swinotek said.

The season has been going incredibly well, Jasmine Hamm ‘24 said. As a first year member, Hamm has learned more about current events that typically are not covered in school and has met many new people.

When figuring out debate topics, members have a lot of freedom to choose what they are going to research and how they are going to contribute to each debate, Swinotek said. 

“Research is always the number one thing, but also talking with people on the team,” Dreves-Hunt said. “I will always talk with my co-captains and teachers; I figure that helps out a lot. Most of it, though, comes from experience and being prepared for what people are going to bring up.”

A typical tournament day provides not only debates between students, but also gives participants the opportunity to informally talk to students from other schools and their virtues, Swinotek said.

“Depending on how far away we are, we might have anywhere from 15 minutes to 60 minutes to practice speeches before having to go to the competition rooms,” Hamm said. “After we arrive everyone is usually preparing and reviewing their speeches or even doing last minute research. After that, there are three rounds of debate, usually taking six hours altogether, and after that there are awards which is about another hour.”

Students are able to re-read what other students have prepared and at the end of the day are able to vote on who they feel is most deserving of winning, Swinotek said. 

Because of the level of involvement throughout the year, Congressional Debate already has 10 guaranteed spots for the State Championship on March 24-25 at Illinois State University.

Congressional Debate will compete next on Feb. 25 at Harper College.