Student Advances to Ronald Reagan Debate Nationals

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Khira Patel, Heritage Portraits & Ads Editor

The weekend of Feb. 7, the debate team took on a new form of competition. With over 50 competitors from seven states, the atmosphere of the Ronald Reagan debate series was tense. Only two people from each state were given the opportunity to compete in nationals, which is hosted in Simi Valley, California. Akhil Gandra ‘15 was one of the few students qualified to advance.

Even though Gandra was the only one from the Westwood debate team to move on, other students were successful as well. Of the four entries, three students advanced to the elimination rounds. Angela Park ‘15 made it to Octo-Finals, and Navya Kumar ‘15 advanced to Semi-Finals, placing 3rd.

“I did not expect to advance in the slightest because there was a lot of people going, and this was a new environment in terms of the judging,” Gandra said. “Since we were used to trained judges we didn’t really know exactly what to do in terms of appealing to normal civilians. We did not expect to do this well as a team.”

A total of 16 students including Gandra will be attending National Championship held from July 23-26, where $35,000 worth of scholarships will be rewarded.

“I am looking forward to meeting the new people from across the country who I have never met before,” Gandra said. “It’s going to be 16 people and I will not know any of the other 15 that are going to be there.”

Gandra’s trip will be all expense paid. The tournament will be located at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library where real presidential debates are held.

“Because it is a presidential library, there is a historical aspect to it which is pretty cool,” Gandra said. “There are going to be people who are close to real historical people there, so I’m excited for that.”

Being qualified took months of hard work and preparation. With the help of a supportive team and coaches, Gandra was able to make this competition a success.

“It was a lot of work that we did throughout the year,” Gandra said. “There was nothing uniquely different in terms of preparation that we did for this tournament versus other ones. But overall, when we have a tournament, everyone puts in their all and does their best to try and put together the best cases.”

The format of this tournament was different than anything Gandra had experienced before. Other competitions have a very rigid structure; however, the Ronald Reagan tournament made students work to appeal their cases to anyone.

“The competition experience was pretty interesting and it was un