Debate Team earns top honors

The Joel Barlow High School Debate Team celebrate six awards after two tournaments. From left are Shawn Burger, Brooke Curto, Coach Randall Smith, Nicole Peterson, Nathan Sobel, Cooper D’Agostino, Nicoló Marzaro, Ben Lewson, Caroline Ryng and Coach Evan Streams. — Curt Robinson photo

In two consecutive weekends, students from Joel Barlow High School have taken top honors, earning a total of six awards at debate tournaments hosted by private schools, Loomis-Chaffee and King Low Heywood Thomas, and a Barlow student will travel to the World Debate Championships in South Africa.

Senior Nicolò Marzaro earned an invitation to the World Individual Debate and Public Speaking Championship held this year at the Clifton School in Durban, South Africa. Nicolò was the first place advanced speaker with a commanding 77 points, and by earning them, he was the one person from the tournament to be selected to move on to the World Finals.

Barlow has done well at the Loomis-Chaffee School in Windsor in the past, but the school’s current advanced speakers were more dominant than any roster ever before at this qualifying tournaments. Barlow’s debaters won four awards in advanced competition as the only public school among the elite private academies that comprise the Debater Association of New England Independent Schools (DANEIS).

The topic at Loomis was green building. Senior Cooper D’Agostino was just one point behind Nicolò’s  77 points. Cooper finished as the second-place advanced speaker, two ahead of the next highest from Andover. Together Nicolò  and Cooper had the highest scoring 3-0 record, a massive seven points ahead of number two Andover, making them the first-place advanced team for the day.

This tournament was a unique prepared, switch-sides policy debate where competitors had a month to research green building technologies and strategies to advocate. Cooper and Nicolò researched a broad collection of reforms and standards including mandates to retrofit existing buildings based on LEED standards in order to make them more energy efficient, improve indoor air quality, and be made from sustainably-produced materials. Their plan prevailed over St. Paul’s and Westfield Academy in the first two rounds. For round three, they used a counter-plan to successfully negate Roxbury-Latin’s policy.

Negative teams sometimes advocate a plan that is outside the resolution, arguing that it is a better path to achieving the goals of the affirmative plan. In this instance, the Barlow debaters argued that investing in research and development toward low-emissions energy sources was a better path to mitigating climate change and health problems caused by pollution than changing the way we build.

Their victories follow in the footsteps of last year’s Barlow captains, Henry Knight and Sam Torchio, now freshmen at Brown and the University of Michigan respectively who were the top team at Loomis in 2012.

Although debaters compete in pairs, earning individual speaker plaques and team honors as pairs, awards are also given to groups of four. The strong 2-1 record of fellow seniors Ben Lewson and Caroline Ryng combined with Nicolò’s and Cooper’s was good enough to earn them the third-place advanced four-person team award.

Another quartet of Barlow debaters competed in advanced, including junior Nicole Peterson along with sophomores Brooke Curto, Nathan Sobel, and Shawn Burger, all working hard and learning a lot from stiff competition that they can apply in coming years.

Hosted by King Low Heywood Thomas (KLHT), a private school in Stamford, Barlow debaters earned several distinctions debating the idea of government no longer paying for reconstruction in natural disasters.

Seniors Ben Lewson and Nicolò Marzaro earned the second and third place varsity speaker trophies respectively. Ben and partner Caroline Ryng had the highest speaker point total of the day while Nicolò and partner Brendan Coppinger had the second highest total.

Five of the top 10 speakers were from Barlow, including Hunter Ligthman in fifth, Caroline Ryng in sixth, and Cooper D’Agonstino in 10th.

Another six Barlow students were included in the top 20 including Brendan Coppinger in 11th, Harrison von Dwingelo in 13th, Brendan O’Connor in 14th, David Freeman in 16th, Cormac Cummiskey in 17th, and Will Tower in 18th.

While seniors lead the pack, a couple junior- sophomore varsity pairs made significant gains.

Junior David Freeman and sophomore Brooke Curto finished 10th and junior Brendan O’Connor and sophomore Sam Aldershof finished 12th overall with strong 2-1 records. Junior Nicole Peterson along with sophomores Hunter Lightman, Harrison von Dwingelo and Will Tower all picked up a win. Juniors Carl Goldstein and Stephen Osika put in a solid effort against difficult opponents.

In novice, sophomores Shawn Burger and Nathan Sobel took round three from Ridgefield. First time freshmen Ben Ball and Max Sanderson got their first taste of competition against Greenwich and two pairs from the host school, King.

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