• March 21, 2024

    Speech & Debate wins 5th state title

    Speech & Debate TeamThe Upper St. Clair High School Speech & Debate team is now a five-time state champion. The team won its third title in a row at the 2024 Pennsylvania High School Speech and Language (PHSSL) State Championships, held March 15-16, 2024, at Bloomsburg University.

    Competing in the large school division, the team also earned both Sweepstakes Awards, awarded to the school that accumulated the most points, for the speech events and the debate events. This marks the second time that Upper St. Clair has swept all three top team awards. The first time was in 2022.

    Individually, three Upper St. Clair students were crowned PHSSL state champions. Earning first place finishes in their respective events were Priyasha Itani, Persuasive Speaking; Ishaan Sharma, Extemporaneous Speaking; and Arnav Kumar, Storytelling. Placing second were Ujal Gautam, Senate, and Vincent Watson, Informative Speaking.

    The Speech & Debate Team is coached by high school teachers Ben Edwards and Dave Watson with assistance from Erin Wolf, Oscar Heller and Saif Durrani. Mr. Edwards describes the team’s success as surreal.

    “We spent years looking up at the great programs in Pennsylvania, like Holy Ghost Prep, North Allegheny, McDowell and Mt. Lebanon, and aspiring to celebrate at the end of states the way they did,” he said. “It's an absolute pleasure to see our kids having those experiences.”

    Mr. Edwards attributes the team’s continued success to student leadership and accountability.

    “About 10 years ago, Dave and I decided to make our team less coach-centered and more student-centered, and it's the best decision we've made,” he said. “The students feel ownership of the program, feel accountable to the younger students, and teach them the right way to be members of USC Speech & Debate.”

    Performing at a high level and achieving success in speech and debate often requires patience.

    “On our team, getting opportunities as an underclassman is tough, so working hard and proving oneself while waiting one's turn is a significant indicator of how they'll perform when their number is called,” Mr. Edwards said. “Those who buy into that system and aspire to be like the successful students who came before them often find similar success.”

    Mr. Edwards considers participation in speech and debate the most significant advantage someone can have in preparation for life beyond high school.

    “I've seen so many of our alumni achieve their dreams after leaving the program,” he said. “Even if they're not going into law, politics, or theater, it gives young people the confidence to communicate with others effectively, do deep research, and present themselves professionally much earlier than other young people.”

    In addition to the state champions and runners-up, several other team members had success at the PHSSL tournament.

    The following competitors were Semifinalists in Debate (Places 3-4):

    • Theeya Chen & Lucia Miles – Policy Debate 
    • Shubham Patel & Shiven Verma – Parliamentary Debate
    • Aaryan Kumar & Isabel Vilensky – Public Forum Debate (Undefeated in Prelims)
    • Harsh Mali – Extemporaneous Debate (Undefeated in Prelims)

    The following students were Quarterfinalists in Debate (Places 5-8):

    • Zahra Khan & Izzy Lin – Policy Debate
    • Opal Miller – Extemporaneous Debate (Undefeated in Prelims)

    The following competitors were Speech or Congress Finalists (Places 3-6):

    • Aarav Patil – Persuasive Speaking, 4th Place
    • Rohan Mehta – Extemporaneous Speaking, 4th Place
    • Roshan Mishra – Commentary, 4th Place
    • Steven Meyer – House, 4th Place
    • Shreya Sriram – Program of Oral Interpretation, 4th Place
    • Max Gresh – Extemporaneous Speaking, 5th Place
    • Ashe Sobel-Drum – Senate, 6th Place
    • Prachi Chetlur – Commentary, 6th Place
    • Anoushka Barve – Persuasive Speaking, 6th Place
    • Alison Hanna – Dramatic Interpretation, 6th Place

    The following student was an Octofinalist in Debate (Places 9th-13th):

    • Medha Misra – Lincoln-Douglas Debate

    The following students were Semifinalists in Speech or Congress (Places 7th-14th):

    • Mana Barimani – Impromptu Speaking
    • Manav Patel – Senate
    • Anushka Sharma – Poetry
    • Tommy Slowey – Extemporaneous Speaking
    • Hansika Yanamadala – Humorous Interpretation

    The following students qualified for the state tournament but did not advance in the competition:

    • Noshi Dabas – Lincoln Douglas Debate
    • Pritika Gupta – Lincoln Douglas Debate
    • Nikhil Chandran & Krishna Sathya Vagheeswar – Public Forum Debate
    • Henry Ginsburg & Emily Wetterau – Public Forum Debate
    • George Abdel-Messih – Senate
    • Luke An – Informative Speaking
    • Eva Dimanov & Helly Makadia – Parliamentary Debate
    • Siddharth Kumar & Andrew Nowak – Duo Interpretation
    • Stephen Li – Lincoln-Douglas Debate

    Founded in 1961, the Pennsylvania High School Speech League’s purpose is to stimulate through educational competition an understanding and appreciation of all areas of speech.