Debate: Casey and Rory Take the Win
December 18, 2017
On November 11th, at Westhill High School in Stamford, CT, seniors Casey Martin and Rory Washecka earned first place for the Connecticut Debate Association. After years of practice with mock debates and competitions across the state, their hard work has finally paid off. Martin has been debating since her freshman year and is currently co-captain with senior, Paul Hager and competes at the varsity level. Washecka joined the club her sophomore year, and she proved early on that she could perform well at the varsity level.
The Darien High School Debate Club arrived at WHS in formal attire at 7:40 a.m., anxious to find out the resolve, a normative statement which the debaters affirm or negate. Parents, including Rory’s mother, chose to come as well to judge score partners from different schools. Participants can purchase a slice of pizza and drink for lunch for lunch in the school’s cafeteria. There was table full of bagels, donuts, fruit, and coffee to enjoy for breakfast.
All resolves are about contemporary issues, so Martin and Washecka decided to read articles on current events in order to be prepared for any topic that would come their way. After chatting with students from all over CT for an hour, the resolve was announced: “The US should prioritize protecting the domestic economy in future trade negotiations.” All debaters were given a thick packet of articles from “The New York Times” and “The Wall Street Journal” for evidence to support the argument. The teams had 1 hour to prepare and were not permitted to use outside sources. They competed in three rounds: one for affirming, another for negating, and the last is determined by a coin toss, if both teams want the same side. Under pressure with a short amount of time to prepare, Martin and Washecka came up with questions related to the topic together. Both girls annotated the articles and took notes for the affirmative and negative side, unaware of which they would be defending first. The two discuss about what points they will bring up. Eventually, the entire DHS debater team meets to share contentions, the main points to support the claim. Once the hour is up, partners are assigned a side to defend and a classroom for the first round.
Martin and Washecka negated the resolve for the first round, affirmed for the second, and opposed again for the third. Each round lasted about 20 minutes. In between the second and third round, all debaters and faculty had lunch for another hour. The break gave the girls an opportunity to review their notes. The seniors found the negative side to be easier because of personal preference and the packet having more information to defend the negative side. When the second round ended, the girls were not confident about their performance and were convinced they were not going to win at that point.
“Rory was going to leave early, but her mom made her stay.” Martin said.
For the third round, the seniors were able to negate. “Our judge for the third round ended up being my friend from another school’s dad. I definitely felt awkward to debate something crazy in front of him.” Washecka said. Despite the uncomfortable situation, the seniors were able to pull it off and impress their judge.
Afterwards, all debaters were lead to the auditorium for the final round for the top two partners. Washecka had been watching the show, “Friends” , with her earbuds on. Suddenly, she got nudged by a friend about her and Martin being called to the stage. The two were in shocked; never in a millions would they have thought that they would be up on stage that day. The girls competed against a team from AITE, Academy of Information Technology, a college preparatory school in Stamford, CT. They were lucky enough to argue the negative side.
The final debate lasted about an hour, requiring Martin and Washecka to provide much more information compared the past rounds and to be more convincing otherwise. At this point, debaters in the audience are drained out and do not pay attention. However, the seniors were able to keep the judges and adults attentive. After an intense hour, the judges decided to vote for them because of their passion, convincing personalities, and the amount of information provided on the spot.
Martin said “Rory and I were completely incredulous. We thought we didn’t make the second round.”
Martin and Washecka enjoy doing debate because it boosts public speaking skills, gains new perspectives, and helps you think rationally. Both admit that when they first joined debate, they didn’t read articles frequently, but now they enjoy reading articles on current events on a daily basis to keep up with what is happening around the world. The two look forward to debating next year in college. The Debate club meets on Thursday nights at 5:30 p.m. and last an hour. Competitions are once a month on Saturdays. They encourage you join if you want to gain confidence.