BY PAUL KIM
This weekend, 40 teams are in competition at the University of Pennsylvania’s Liberty Bell Classic, one of three East Coast invitationals of the year. Teams from Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania each with their own contrasting styles of debate, are joined by six teams from California. With a single open division, the championship is worth 24 points, penalized by 1 point for a small 20% break.
In its 41st year, the Liberty Bell Classic is a charity tournament with all proceeds going towards the local high school forensics community in Philadelphia. Eleven categories of competition are offered at the LBC, parliamentary debate being among the smaller categories in terms of amount of competitors, but, like every year, the level of competition for an East Coast tournament is unrivaled.
Shawn Cunningham, ranked individually as fourth in the latest POI rankings, is competing with new partner Michael Jayasuriya, along with four other Bishop O’Dowd teams. Notable competitors include the 24th ranked duo of Camille Porter-McAvoy & Danielle Viviani, and Notre Dame finalist Sophia Yau-Weeks, partnering with SCU semifinalist Claudia Hester.
Other teams in attendance include St. Luke’s Chloe Kekedjian & Eliza Posner, last year’s highest ranked East Coast pair, and twenty other teams from the Connecticut Debate Association. Also from Connecticut, come six teams from New Haven’s Urban Debate League. Three teams apiece from New York and Pennsylvania make up the rest of the field. Notable absences include New York powerhouse Regis High School, who closed out the fall’s Yale Invitational, and Connecticut Debate Association standout, Ridgefield High School, winner of top speaking honors at last month’s CDA tournament.
The flavor of parliamentary debate at the LBC traditionally follows Connecticut APDA-style parli, with kritiks and other advanced tech being rare. Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania styles of debate are all generally similar to West Coast parli, but each has distinct differences. This weekend will put on display a unique contrast of styles unmatched by any other invitational this year.
The tournament begins with five prelims this Saturday morning, with outrounds taking place on Sunday.
After five invitational-free months on the East Coast, the parliamentary debate season is once again underway.