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Claremont High speech and debate wins league title

Claremont High School debaters and orators dazzled judges earlier this month, winning the Citrus Belt Speech Region league championship and crowning nine individual champions in the process.

CHS speech and debate coach Dave Chamberlain says the battle with perennial rival Redlands High School, which won the title last year, was a “horse race all the way through.” The Wolfpack eventually triumphed 258 to 233.

During the three days of competition against 25 other East Los Angeles schools, CHS saw 28 speakers and debaters qualify for the state tournament in April as well.

“This is a really good year for us,” Mr. Chamberlain says. “[The league championship] was very exciting.”

The English teacher has coached CHS speech and debate for 19 years and chalks up some of his team’s success to being competitive in all 17 events.

“Most of our students do three or four different events,” he says. “I think the fact that we diversify helps us do really well in tournaments.”

Each of the 12 speech events and five debate events has distinct rules; students must impress judges—often former competitors, college students and parents—with powerful prose and strong debate skills to advance to later rounds and score points.

Leading the way for the Wolfpack were the individual event winners: seniors Ashton Ngiam and Sanjar Junisbai in parliamentary debate, sophomore Melissa Glover and freshman Sarah Pino in policy debate, junior Kenny Park in international extemporaneous speaking, sophomore Alex Walburg in domestic extemporaneous speaking, junior Faith Nishimura in dramatic interpretation, junior Joshua Sanchez in original prose and poetry, and junior Jack Xiao in original oratory.

Aside from practicing for the state championship in Tracy late next month, Mr. Chamberlain’s team is also focused on qualifying for the national competition in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, this June.

Two students—Xiao and Glover—punched their tickets to the national tournament with strong performances in congressional debate at a qualifying meet in Santa Ana last weekend. Mr. Chamberlain hopes three or four more students will join them this weekend.

During the twice-weekly practices at the high school, Mr. Chamberlain moves from room to room, offering pointers and advice to students, who divide up by event to prepare for competitions. But he says much of the preparation and motivation comes from the students themselves.

“I have captains in charge of each event and they really work with the younger kids,” he says. “We have a really student-run organization.”

—Kellen Browning

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