BY DANIEL FOLTZ

I, like so many other now-seniors left over from last year’s circuit, am partnerless. I remain absolutely clueless, even less than a month away from our first tournament, with whom I’ll end up.

The graduation of the Class of 2014 has undeniably left a sizeable gap in the competition for the 2014-2015 debate season. SoCal’s parliamentary field has been drastically reduced from that of last year, with the vast majority of the top competitors moving on past high school. By my assessment of the top 30 teams on last year’s POI rankings, 6 were Southern Californian teams. Out of those 12 debaters, there remains one unified team (29. Carlsbad HO) and three independent debaters (25. Schnabel of Claremont, 12. Coelho of Carlsbad, and 4. myself of Peninsula).

I tend to place a very high value on the benefit of constant partnership, and thus am impelled to tentatively give Carlsbad HO top of my preseason Southern California rankings. Though it is nearly impossible to rank teams without full knowledge of partnerships, a simple numeric perspective would lead to Peninsula Foltz-? as 2nd, Carlsbad Coelho-? as 3rd, and Claremont Schnabel-? as 4th.

Looking beyond individual competitors, analyzing the recent and traditional strength of a school’s program and coaching will likely give us a good picture of where we can expect to see some good teams emerge. SoCal last year had three of the top five squads and four of the top 10. They are as follows:

3. Oxford Academy (123)    
4. Claremont (108.5)
5. Carlsbad (108)
9. Peninsula (81)

Though the final club rankings were quite definitive, with the exception of the Claremont-Carlsbad near-tie, this year can be expected to be much different.

Going down the list of schools one by one, starting with Oxford, radical changes can already be seen. Oxford graduated an extremely talented class of seniors last year, including state finalists Loren Park & Nick Hwangbo and repeated TOC and state-qualifying debaters Saksham Jain and Jaewon Kim, along with an assortment of other talented competitors. This would make me inclined to drop their prospective rankings down substantially were it not for the retention of now-senior Alex Gao, a state and TOC qualifier, and the team’s coaching. Gaining new assistant coach David “Bear” Saulet, in addition to their already exceptional coaching staff, is likely to turn any collection of comparatively newer debaters in to a battle-hardened and bloodthirsty bunch before long.

Claremont lost top team Mathias & Musa, but have retained an impressive collection of debaters. Dominic Schnabel, mentioned above, along with TOC qualifiers Andrew Lopez & Gavin Greene, have a strong chance to bring Claremont a successful year. Lopez & Greene are especially promising as one of the few uncompromised SoCal teams, and would have definitely done better in last year’s final rankings were it not for an unfortunate tab mishap at CSU Fullerton that kept them from breaking.

Carlsbad had an extremely tough year of graduations. The loss of successful teams Connely & Lee and Oliver & Rao, accompanied by the departure of half of Wolfpack-winning and TOC-qualifying team Blair Rohring & Luiza Coelho will make it tough for their squad as a whole to recover this year. However, Yaseen Hashmi & Elyse O’Neill are the most successful remaining SoCal team when it comes to consistent invitational success, and a dominating individual performance can be expected out of them.

This is definitely going to be a building year for Peninsula after the graduation of the large majority of our top Parli competitors. Out of Pen’s 10 POI point-earning competitors last year, half graduated, leaving mostly fractured teams behind. The graduation of my partner Shay Chang leaves Pen without a clear top team, though a strong group of juniors and newly-varsity debaters should be able to put together a more than respectable performance under the guidance of head coach Mark Crossman. The graduation of nearly the entirety of WBFL rival South’s parli squad leaves the state qualifying slots from the league almost for the taking of Peninsula, so a strong CHSSA performance is likely for this year.

After all the offseason shakeups for these competitive teams, I expect this year SoCal squad rankings to look more like this:

1.    Claremont
2.    Carlsbad
3.    Oxford
4.    Peninsula

Also to be expected are strong performances by fellow top-30 squads La Costa Canyon and Northwood. LCC especially has had a tradition of success on the parli circuit, and the same is to be expected this year.
The biggest wildcard in SoCal parli for the 2014-2015 season has to be Campbell Hall’s fearsome combination of Milan Armitraj and Mia Ehrenberg. Both have state impromptu finals under their belts, and are the only remaining semifinal team from last year’s state tournament. Under the guidance of the superpower-enabled Iain Lampert, these two are my preseason prediction to win the CHSSA state tournament.

No matter what last year’s numbers may say, only time can tell how this season will go. But with how this year’s field is shaping up, it’s looking like this will be the year when any team has a chance to win big.


Daniel Foltz debates for Palos Verdes Peninsula High School and is the Southern California editor and correspondent for Point of Information.