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Debaters Compete at World Championship

Debaters Compete at World Championship

Debaters Compete at World Championship


From left to right: Meilan Antonucci ’24, Jason Shan ’23, and Ben Who ’24.

Staff Writer

April 13, 2023

Ethan Choi '26

Three members of the school’s Debate team attended the World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championships (WIDPSC), held in Durban, South Africa from March 26th to April 2nd. The three students, Meilan Antonucci ’24, Jason Shan ’23, Ben Who ’24, were part of Team USA. 

This year, the WIDPSC, an international debate and public speaking competition for high school students, brought together 108 debaters from 16 countries. 

The school’s debaters qualified for WIDPSC by winning best speaker at tournaments throughout the year. Antonucci won a spot on Team USA at last fall’s International Independent Public Speaking Competition (IISPSC), while Shan and Who won tournaments in the Debating Association of New England Independent Schools (DANEIS) league, in which 100 students from a dozen boarding schools competed. 

Due to Covid-19, this debate was the first in-person WIDPSC competition in the last four years. U.S. debaters also faced the added challenge of an unfamiliar WIDPSC-made format. In this format, debaters have 45 minutes to prepare — far longer than the DANEIS standard of 10 minutes. 

The result is a fundamentally different debate, where more weight is placed on emphasis and emotion in reading, as opposed to quick, decisive thought. Debate Head Coach Mr. Dave Conti, who accompanied the students to South Africa, said, “The debaters practiced differently for the specific WIDPSC formats that were going to appear in the championships.” 

The competition challenged the three debaters to compete at a high level throughout many difficult rounds. Antonucci said, “The level of competition was much higher than the average tournament we’re used to attending, so all of the rounds were really intense, but also really fun.” In order to prepare, Antonucci meditated, which helped him stay calm in the high-pressure rounds. 

In many rounds, debaters were presented with complex policy topics, including many prompts which focused on African issues. Such prompts were challenging for U.S. debaters to fully grasp within the limited preparation period. Debaters were also paired up at random, meaning that Team USA competitors frequently had to coordinate with partners whom they had never met before. Mr. Conti said, “Adjusting to new teammates was not easy, but they did fantastically well in the preliminary rounds and qualified for finals.” 

Looking back at the competition, Antonucci reflected, “The results were phenomenal, and it showcased all the hard work that Jason, Ben, and I put in all year.” 

Team USA won several awards throughout the tournament, with representatives taking 10th, 14th, 17th, 18th, and 19th place. Canadian Erick Yang became the reigning World Champion at the end of the tournament. 

Mr. Conti and the team are looking forward to competing in next year’s competition. He said, “The debaters learned a lot about international competitions and this will help them with next year’s competition in Australia.”

Ethan Choi is a staff writer for The Record.

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Editor's Note: This article was recovered from The Record's online archive. There may be stylistic and visual errors that interrupt the reading experience, as well as missing photos. To read this article as it appeared in print, view our print archives.

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Editorials are written by members of The Record's Executive Board. They typically center on issues related to the school or student life on campus.

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