It’s no debate: WHS team gets first win

Although perhaps not widely known, the Wilton High School debate team is one of the largest and most successful organizations at the school. This year’s team is the largest in the school’s history and currently has a roster of more than 120 students.

Led by co-captains Ryan Cross and Ali Heistand, and board members Jack Kaelin and Kurt Rubin, the team competes against other Fairfield County and Connecticut teams, as well as in national tournaments.

The first tournament of the season was the Yale Invitational, Sept. 21-22. This is the only national debate tournament held in Connecticut, with nearly 2,000 students from across the nation attending events in debate and speech. After five preliminary rounds on Saturday, Wilton seniors Rachael Jones and Ryan Cross were among the top 18 teams. They eventually lost a 2-1 decision to the team of Bishop O’Dowd High School in California, which went on to win the tournament. Four Wilton varsity team members were also awarded Speaker Awards in the top 12 spots for the tournament: Jack Kaelin took ninth place, Rachael Jones finished in 10th place, Ryan Cross came in 11th, and Jeremy Brewer was 12th.

On Saturday, Oct. 12, the Connecticut Debate Association (CDA) held its first tournament of the year in Stamford. The topic the students debated was standardized curriculum requirements. Elliot Conners and Daniel Jensen, both sophomores, placed first overall in the novice division and Daniel Jensen received the award for third place overall. They both qualified for the Connecticut State Championships in the spring.

This past Saturday, Nov. 16, the team participated in a CDA tournament at New Canaan High School. It was the largest CDA tournament in the organization’s history with more than 250 students from around the state. The topic for all of the debates was prison reform. In the novice division, the freshman team of Ryan Carlson and Brandon Zheng finished with a 3-0 record — which places them halfway to qualifying for the state championships. (Students can qualify by placing in the top three places as a team or as a speaker, or finishing with a 3-0 record at two or more tournaments.)

In the varsity division, the team of Rachael Jones and Ryan Cross won second place. In the final round, they debated in front of all the tournament attendees — an audience of more than 250. The five-judge panel split 3-2, giving the first-place win to the team from Joel Barlow of Redding. In addition to the second-place team victory, Rachael was third-place speaker in the varsity division. Both she and Ryan qualified for state championships in March.

The next CDA tournament is Dec. 14. The team will also compete at the Princeton Invitational in December.