We’re halfway through the 2014-2015 season, and it’s time for another field report. Northern California has done impressively, overall, with approximately half of the top 30 teams in the nation coming from this region alone. And the Tournament of Champions for the California Cup’s field is shaping up to be both fantastic and huge.

In order to take a closer look at the competitors in Northern California, let’s examine the competitors at the highest levels of our recent tournaments, and whom we might expect to see at the highest levels of our tournaments to come. Note: you'll probably notice that quite a few teams aren't really mentioned here. That isn't because I don't like them, or believe that they're fantastic debaters. It's probably because I either 1) know less about their accomplishments, because they've done well at tournaments I haven't been to, in regions beyond the misty NorCal hills, 2) they've done well at a lot of tournaments, but not reached a final round (yet) in the misty NorCal hills, or 3) they will most likely not be showing up at lay tournaments, because they mainly do policy. 

Evergreen Valley’s junior team of Basil Abushama & Nadia Cochinwala, coached by POI founder/instructor/holy person Artem Raskin, have had an impressive run this season-- keeping their hold on first in the nation as they’ve made it to finals at UOP, and semis at NPDI and SCU. Both Abushama & Cochinwala also picked up speaker awards at SCU, and seem likely to continue drawing in the speaker awards and elim-round ballots at MLK and Stanford.

The hybrid team from Archbishop Mitty and Cupertino of Jigar Shah & Hersh Solanki holds 3rd in the rankings, and pulled off a recent victory in finals at SCU over Los Altos power team Spencer Dembner & Steve Herman. Shah recently earned top speaker at NPDI, and the speaking styles of both seem likely to pull in many ballot signatures in their favor at the great lay tournaments to come. 

Sonoma Academy’s junior team of Jack Greenberg & Liam Kolling, alumni of the 2014 POI Debate Institute, started the year off with a bang by winning UOP’s Jon Schamber Invitational, and haven’t lost their steam, reaching quarters at NPDI... and placing 17th at SCU, where only 16 teams of 98 broke. That was a particularly unfortunate tournament for Sonoma Academy-- your correspondent and her one-tournament partner sophomore Sophia Yau-Weeks from Bishop O’Dowd placed 18th at SCU, missing elims, like Greenberg & Kolling, by a fraction of a speaker point.

Sonoma Academy’s sophomore team of Connor Duncan (2014 POI Debate Institute alum) & Aris Saxena made it to quarters at SCU, though, and can probably be expected to continue their streak of breaking at every tournament. Sonoma Academy’s sophomore-senior pair of Kornfein-Maciorowski (2014 POI Debate Institute), who placed second at NPDI, were a one-hit-wonder. Your correspondent returns to her partnership with fellow senior & 2014 POI Debate Institute alum Logan Noel, which previously brought them to quarterfinals at UOP.

Really noticeable in this year’s mid-term observations, however, is that teams that attended POI’s Debate Institute last summer and teams coached by POI instructors are really kicking into gear. In the following list, teams with a * are either coached by POI instructors, or include at least one member who attended the POI Debate Institute last summer.

1. Evergreen Valley Abushama & Cochinwala 51.6*

2. Windsor Miller & St. Amant 47.8

3. Archbishop Cupertino Shah & Solanki 45.9

4. Sonoma Academy Greenberg & Kolling 43.5*

5. Los Altos Dembner & Herman 37.5

6. Windsor Ernst & Skarr 33.7

7. Sequoia Hart & Sharma 33.3

8. Sonoma Academy Duncan & Saxena 31.9*

9. Dougherty Valley Bhargava & Ziaee 29

10. Bishop O’Dowd Cunningham & Johnson 23.9*

11. Bishop O’Dowd Seideman & Vaughan 23.2*

12. Sonoma Academy Kornfein & Maciorowski 23*

13. Notre Dame Duflock & Hackworth 22.2

14. Monta Vista Jain & Rosenthal 21

15. Bishop O’Dowd Choy & Woods 20*

16. Dougherty Valley Riano & Sayani 19

17. Irvington Bhardwaj & Kaushik 18.3

18. Lynbrook Rathi & Tripathi 17

19. Sonoma Academy Maciorowski & Noel 16.6*

20. Notre Dame Hackworth & Mondry 16

Of the top 20 teams in Northern California, 40% are either coached by POI staff or attended the 2014 POI Debate institute. If this category is expanded to include debaters coached by POI Winter Workshop staff, that number expands to 60%. Particularly impressive is that more than five of these teams, like Evergreen AC and Sonoma Academy GK, include juniors or sophomores, so this phenomenon can't be simply blamed on seniority. Something worth considering, no?

For upcoming tournament titles, it seems likely we can expect to see many of the usual suspects at the top, including Evergreen AC, Windsor MS, Archbishop Cupertino (or Brooks Academy) SS, and Sonoma Academy GK, all of whom have proven adept at lay adaptation.

I’d hedge on Windsor MS putting in a very strong performance at MLK, in particular, since that tournament tends to have a lot of value and fact rounds, which Windsor usually excels at, and since they just earned the title of finalist at the Wolfpack Invitational at Claremont High School last weekend.

However, with the other top teams in the area all possessing lay tournament championship titles-- Archbishop Cupertino SS and Sonoma Academy GK -- or lay tournament finalist titles and high speaker awards -- Evergreen AC  -- James Logan High School tomorrow should become an interesting playground. And, of course, I’m only mentioning the top four teams in the rankings here because four is an easy number to write about, but teams ranked further down the rankings could easily take the jump up to finals, especially in a lay atmosphere we can expect to be filled with new debate parents. SoCal and Oregon teams have come up and down, respectively, to Stanford in the past, so the competition at that tournament will probably be even more intense. 

. . . with the [top] teams in the area all possessing lay tournament championship titles . . . or lay tournament finalist titles and high speaker [awards,] James Logan High School tomorrow should become an interesting playground.

What else is new?

In the club rankings of Northern California, Evergreen has taken the lead, with Windsor and Sonoma Academy both trailing not far behind.


2. WINDSOR 128




Evergreen seems likely to keep their lead, due to the sheer numbers of their team and the sheer competence of their coaching, but, of course, these next few tournaments are lay tournaments, so it’s hard to say. Windsor and Sonoma Academy are both poised closely, and either could take steps towards Evergreen’s top spot in the continuation of the season, but the club rankings really just remain to be seen. Especially since Windsor seems to be heading for the figurative award of most dedicated this year, since they've been to two tournaments in Southern California in addition to the usual tournament load up north. Of course, Bishop O’Dowd has a moderately large number of teams competing as well, and it wouldn’t be at all a stretch to see most of them breaking at upcoming tournaments. At this point, the top seems like anyone’s game.

And, finally, let’s call attention to the resounding success of technical tournaments this year, so far and soon-to-come. NPDI brought in more teams than ever anticipated, as previous news posts on this site have described, yet somehow managed to keep everything running smoothly, and pretty much exactly on time... I’m still in shock. The advent of the 6x4, in NorCal, and 4x4’s, in SoCal and Oregon should provide an interesting experience for those attending, especially since NorCal’s 6x4 field includes many top teams. At this point, it seems like the only way the 6x4 would fail to live up to the hype would be if no one brings a cake, because it seems sure to be a party... and if no one else does, I’ll bring the cake. You think I’m saying this to build up the hype. You think I’m joking. You’re wrong.

NPDI brought in more teams than ever anticipated, as previous news posts on this site have described, yet somehow managed to keep everything running smoothly, and pretty much exactly on time... I’m still in shock.

So the second half of this season shall be an interesting one in Northern California, as teams vie for the top at MLK , Stanford, and all the smaller tournaments, on their way to the Tournament of Champions in April.

Sierra Maciorowski debates for Sonoma Academy, and is the opinion page editor for Point of Information.

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