Soaring to Speech & Debate Nationals

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Heritage hosted the National Speech & Debate Association’s qualifying tournament for the Manatee district Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 25 and 26.

The event was complete with judges, student volunteers and competitors. At the end, 20 Heritage students won awards and 18 qualified to nationals, including two auto-qualifiers due to their exemplary performance as Top 14 in the nation last year.

Nationals will be held in Phoenix this summer June 13-16. Students who did not qualify at the Manatee district tournament have the chance to compete in the Last-Chance Qualifier in April for another chance to qualify for nationals.

Here is the list of awards:

Dramatic Interpretation: senior Diane Li (Auto-Qualifier) and junior Sophie Simon (2nd Place Qualifier)

Duo Interpretation: freshman Anagha Iyer and sophomore Medha Balaji (District Champion Qualifiers), freshmen Jack Radosevich and Sasha-Kay Lindo (2nd Place Qualifiers)

Humorous Interpretation: junior Kennedy Hack-Juman (2nd Place Qualifier), sophomore Jaimee Canalejo (District Champion Qualifier)

Informative Speaking: sophomore Suriya Gadh (2nd Alternate), freshman Jade Capella (3rd Place Qualifier)

International Extemporaneous Speaking: sophomore Ronak Patel (2nd Place Qualifier)

Lincoln-Douglas Debate: junior Spencer Swickle (3rd Place Qualifier), sophomore Jessica Wong (District Champion Qualifier)

Original Oratory: junior Esther Oyetunji (Auto-Qualifier), Senior Carly Aikens (2nd Place Qualifier)

Policy Debate: junior Mason Cheng and senior Clayton Zipperian (2nd Place Qualifiers)

Public Forum Debate: seniors Rosa Wu and Akanksha Patra (1st Alternates), Mary Abi-Karam and Evan Burkeen (District Champion Qualifiers)

United States Extemporaneous Speaking: freshman Christopher Doherty (2nd Alternate)

All the national qualifiers were awarded the traditional qualifier plaque as well as a light-up cactus to signify the location of nationals in Phoenix. (Photo/Mr. Joele Denis)

Now a senior at American Heritage, Anya returns as Editor-in-Chief of the Patriot Post. With her passion for journalism, she is Co-President of the Quill and Scroll Honor Society. She started an organization called “ActionPAKT: Projects Advocating for a Kinder Tomorrow” to educate youth about current issues and help them take action; currently, she has expanded it to 15+ chapters in multiple countries, raising $17,000 within the Heritage chapter itself. As a Youth Ambassador for Bullets4Life, Anya advocates for gun control. She leads the top Model UN program in the nation as President, competing nationally and organizing conferences at school. To relax, Anya hangs out with friends, swims, goes on walks and binge watches Netflix. She loves the beach, good food and her lazy little dog Simba more than anything.