Debaters Take Their Podiums

Gretta Burke and Nathan Osborn (right), sit and work with their novices before round.

Gigi Hanner

This Saturday, the 25th, the Chesterton debate team is competed at a general tournament for the first time since March 6th, 2020. The team is hosting a novice (first-year) tournament at the school this weekend, and the whole of the Speech and Debate program is pumped and ready to go. Speech and Debate is one program, but is separated into two distinct branches of competition, and in the beginning of the season, tournaments are separated. There is some overlap between the two competition seasons, and competitors are encouraged to try their hand at both parts of the program.

This year’s returning team has faced a number of challenges, and the seniors are beginning their first normal season since their freshman year. Rather than traveling by bus to a variety of different schools, last year’s debate season consisted entirely of online meetings and staying in Chesterton.

The head coach, Chris Lowery, is ready for all competition ahead and has been working diligently to prepare debaters for the return. Some changes need to be made to habits developed during the online season. Previously, competitors used various online meeting platforms to meet with judges and opponents. Because they were debating through Google Meets and Zoom calls, debaters were able to wear more comfortable attire and achieved more when cameras and microphones were turned off during the round. 

     “We need to reacclimate to being around our judges and around our competitors. We got very comfortable last year being able to joke just amongst our own team.” Lowery states.

     As for what he expects out of this year’s season, Lowery says “Same thing it is every year, that we are competing for individual and state championships, with the understanding that our own growth is the most important marker along the way.” 

     But, of course, Chesterton is not the only school dealing with changes, and it was not the worst affected. Lowery remarks, “I know how we were affected by COVID, I’m intrigued to see how other schools were affected as well.” 

The next issue at hand for the team is getting new members to learn and compete often. In regards to the novices, he says 

“They’re actually pretty motivated, it’s been a pleasant surprise, they’ve taken to it enthusiastically. We implore them to trust us and let them know that they’re in good hands, and let them know they’re taking on something challenging but fun,” Lowery explained.

In a few months, the Speech and Debate programs will introduce new competitors to tournaments on the same weekends. Lowery hopes for more cooperation between the debaters and the ‘speechies’ this year, as last year the two parts remained very distinct, though the season is set up so everyone tries both.

“We hope there’ll be more. We hope that a large number of debaters are joining speech at the end of their season. And that a variety of speech kids try to debate in the beginning of the season. We also hope to do a couple of get-together events this year that to focus on the team instead of competition,” Lowery added.

This season’s seniors have been through a lot. Each Individual has been through a different set of challenges, but they are still a part of the same team.  6 of those seniors and 2 juniors from the team, spoke with the Sandscript about competing for at least 3 years. 


Trina Gonzalez: Senior

Gonzalez qualified for the National Tournament in April of last year in Congressional Debate.

  • What are your goals for the season?

My goal for this season is to be a team player, in past years my event, congress, has been known for being a completely solo event. But in the next year, I hope to be a part of a congress team that works together and wins together. Whether that means staying late or arguing over aff and neg points till neither side makes sense anymore, my hope is that by leaving at the end of the season I leave a solid team with all the skills they need to succeed even when I’m not around to see it.”

  • What are you most nervous about?

“I think I am most nervous about standing up and engaging in debate off-screen for the first time in over a year. I went to most of the virtual tournaments last year but nothing compares to standing up in a room filled with your peers and judges.”

  • What made you keep going for all four years? (or however long you’ve been competing.)

“I started in my sophomore year. I remember the first day in class I felt instant regret. I had no idea how to give a speech or how to talk in front of a classroom full of people but something kept me from quitting from day one. I don’t know if it was curiosity or procrastination that kept me from transferring out of the class on the first day but I haven’t regretted my decision to be a part of the CHS Debate team since. Sure I’ve wanted to give up on days where hours of research ended in defeat but I’ve learned countless lessons from even the worst of tournaments and that’s what kept me going.”


Savannah Hutchinson: Senior

Hutchinson competes in Congressional Debate.

  • What are your goals for the season?

My goal this season is to place within the top 4 in the majority of my tournaments”

  • What are you most nervous about?

“I am nervous that I will not be able to achieve my goal for this season or that I may become unmotivated.”

  • What made you keep going for all four years? 

“What has kept me going throughout the four years, though, are my friends who are also in debate and the enjoyment I get out of argumentation.”


Alexander Fish: Junior

Fish qualified for the National Tournament in Public Forum with his partner Saanya Agarwal.

  • How do you feel about this year’s topic(s)? (and what are they)

“The current topic we’re on is really interesting. It’s something not many people have seen/ know about and I think it’s really cool because of that. I know there’s a cryptocurrency topic coming up and I’m really excited for it.”

  • What are you most excited/nervous about?

“I’m most excited to get to travel this year but I’m a little nervous because I haven’t gotten to travel yet for debate.”

  • How are you helping the novices so far? Do you think it’s going well?

“The novices are showing a lot of potential already, especially with enthusiasm for everything going on. So far we’ve worked on cases and I really want to get those done so we can get to speaking and the fundamentals of how to do get good quickly. I think the pace we’ve been on is really good but we have to keep the same work ethic to ensure we do well throughout the year.”


Samuel Burris: Senior 

Burris competes in Public Forum with Riste Miroski.

  • How do you feel about this year’s topic(s)? (and what are they).

I feel amazing about this year’s topics. My first topic in public forum is “The North Atlantic Treaty Organization should substantially increase defense commitments to the Baltic States.” This first topic is such a thought-provoking one. What are defense commitments? What is considered substantially? I have been really excited to finally start debating on it.”

  • What are your goals for this season?

“My main goal for this season is to win state. This year is going to be the best year possible, because all of the best teams of the past years have all graduated and I will have 3 other years of debate knowledge at my use. I want to do this because it was the one thing my brother never did. He was disqualified in the final round of state for the win. So not only would I be winning for myself but also for him.”

  • What made you keep going for all four years?

“The main thing that has kept me going is the team itself. Yes, the hard work pays off when you win but the team and the people is what has me coming back. In my opinion, the bus rides are always better than the tournament. Playing card games, board games, and going out to eat after a tournament is the best part of this program.”


Hamza Sahli: Senior

Sahli competes in multiple debate events and competed in International Extemporaneous Speaking at the National Tournament. 

  • How do you feel about this year’s topic(s)? 

I am excited and absorbed by this year’s topic in Public Forum. The topic this year is about whether or not NATO should increase defense commitments to the Baltic States. I have covered similar topics in World School Debate and Extemp, and I have always enjoyed them.”

  • What are your goals for this season?

“My main goals for the season are to qualify in a debate event for nationals (I have only so far in speech), and to earn points for our team this year at state.”

  • What made you keep going for all four years?

“My passion and interest in debating and researching meaningful topics, along with the comradery of the team has kept me going throughout the last 3 years.”


Milena Veltri: Senior

Veltri competes in Policy Debate with her partner Mark Jewison. The two won the state tournament last year, made it to the top 16 in the Catholic National Tournament, and competed in the National Tournament as well.

  • How do you feel about this year’s topic?

“This year’s topic is water protection, and so far I like it. I like that this topic is very balanced in the sense that both aff and neg have viable arguments to make.”

  • What are your goals for this season?

“My goal for the season is to see the debate team as a whole win state. We lost last year, and I really want to see us come back and win this year. Individually, my goal is for my partner Mark and I to do well at both the district and state competitions as well as see other policy teams do well.”

  • What made you keep going for all four years?

“I think that debate itself kept me going for all for years. As nerdy as it sounds, I really do like debate and enjoy the competition aspect of it. I also like seeing hard work and research skills pay off in round. If I spend hours researching a new argument, I like to see the pay off in round, and I find it really rewarding.”


Mark Jewison: Senior

Along with his achievements in Policy debate with Veltri, Jewison took 6th in the state in Impromptu Speaking and finished 14th in the nation in Extemporaneous Debate at the National Tournament.

  • How do you feel about this year’s topic?

“This year we’ll be debating whether the United States should invest in protecting its water resources. When I first heard that, I thought it would be horrible. The more I’ve gotten into the research, the more I’ve realized how pressing this issue is as it relates to climate change and scarcity. It’s an important issue, so I’m pretty excited.”

  • What are you most excited/nervous about?

“I’m really excited about (fingers crossed) getting back to in-person tournaments. Online tournaments have their perks (getting to sleep in later was nice), but debating is more fun in front of a real podium and with your opponents right there.”

  • What made you keep going for all four years?

“Looking back, I really joined debate by chance. It was something both of my brothers had done, but I really didn’t think it would be my thing. Automatically, I found a really great home full of amazing people. Better yet, policy debate has given me a space to grow as a debater. The thrill of debating, and the satisfaction of getting better throughout the years, has driven me to stay dedicated to the event.”