Two members of the Garfield Debate Team made GHS history when they virtually competed in the biggest national high school policy debate tournament early this April. Their attendance being made possible after the team received a last minute notice that they had qualified to attend. The tournament dubbed the “Tournament of Champions” (TOC) hosts any debater who has received 2 bids from getting top placings at national tournaments, and this year was the first time in GHS history where a team from Garfield had secured both bids required to compete.
Before they had gotten the last minute notice of qualification, it seemed incredibly unlikely that Garfield would get to compete at the tournament. “I thought it’d be amazing for Garfield to go to the TOC as this tiny school no one knows about, and I don’t get to do it after all that work,” Ben Thomas, a GHS debate team member who competed at the tournament said. “That was incredibly disappointing for me.”
The qualifying team consisted of Ben Thomas and Quintin Posey, and had received one bid from making finals of the Saint George’s Invitational Tournament. The team had just placed below the threshold of receiving an additional bid from the other national tournaments they attended, however. Teams with one bid can receive an “at-large” bid that allows them to compete at the tournament from the National Speech and Debate Association. At-large bids are usually awarded sparingly and over a month in advance, however in rare circumstances they may be awarded sooner.
“A week before the TOC, I get this very vague text from Jason [GHS debate team coach] being like, ‘Get on zoom we have debate news,’” Thomas said. “And he’s like, ‘Ben you got an at-large’… I still have this recording of me right afterward where I’m like ‘Huh? This can’t be happening, right?’”
Thomas’ team received a last minute at-large bid to the Tournament of Champions, a rare event where an at-large bid was awarded to a team not even publicly displayed on the tournament’s waiting list.
“In a lot of ways it was almost the best of both worlds, because I simultaneously had to learn the humility part and the accepting losing part… judging yourself on the effort you put in and not whether you win,” Thomas said.
The team was able to get 3 wins out of 7 prelim rounds at the tournament, just shy of the 4 needed to progress to outrounds. Nonetheless, it was a satisfying send off for the graduating team members.
“There is so much information out there to learn… I can think of dozens of articles I’ve read that I really didn’t want to read, but I read because I needed to know them for debate. And I’m like ‘wow this is actually super interesting’… bracing all the information that’s out there and making an effort to try and get yourself into it, is a really really cool experience,” Thomas said.