Shannon Bonet

Sonoma Claims National Parliamentary Debate Invitational

Shannon Bonet
Sonoma Claims National Parliamentary Debate Invitational

In the span of two action-packed days, a pool of 65 entries at the National Parliamentary Debate Invitational boiled down to just two teams in the final round. Negating the resolution, “The United States federal government should replace democracy with a new and distinct political system," Sonoma Academy’s Caleb Kornfein & Aris Saxena defeated Evergreen Valley’s Poojan Shukla & Marek Zielinski on a thread-thin 4-3 split decision.

Spectators present for last year’s finals round must have felt a sense of déjà vu, as the affirmation similarly critiqued capitalism while the negation responded with theoretical arguments prioritizing the debate space. The tournament was worth an even 30 points for the champions.

Left to right: Aris Saxena, Poojan Shukla, Marek Zielinski, and Caleb Kornfein

Left to right: Aris Saxena, Poojan Shukla, Marek Zielinski, and Caleb Kornfein

Known for its qualified judging pool, mutually preferred judge-ranking system, as well as effective organization, NPDI attracted many top debaters, following the trend of previous years. Entry caps originally limited 4 teams per school, but due to high demand, these limits were scrapped. As a result, the tournament broke 32 teams into double-octofinals, which overall toughened the competition as high seeded teams were not guaranteed a clean break to higher outrounds like in previous years.

On their path to finals, Shukla & Zielinski maintained a 4-1 record throughout preliminary rounds, and dropped Dougherty Valley’s Vipul Pandey & David Si in double-octos, Washington’s Shiranthi Jawahar & Vijay Raveendran in octos, Ashland’s John Ropp & Rob Stallman in quarters, and Los Altos/Notre Dame’s hybrid Spencer Dembner & Lilly Hackworth in semis.

Meanwhile, Kornfein & Saxena broke to elimination rounds on a 3-2 preliminary record, dropping Campolindo’s Brigitte Jia & Anna Jiang in double-octofinals, Campolindo’s David Gomez-Siu & Krish Visht in octos, Evergreen’s Anirudh Mani & Janav Sharma in quarters, and Los Altos’s Shirley Cheng & Ryan Lee in semis. Winning NPDI was, in a way, the ultimate redemption for Kornfein, who dropped in finals at the tournament on a 5-0 decision two years ago with former partner Sierra Maciorowski.

This year, NPDI held an inclusivity forum specifically tailored to discuss the issues of gender, race, and intersectionality in the context of the debate community. Debaters, coaches, and judges who attended were encouraged to share their experiences and ponder solutions to the problems faced by female, LGBTQ+, and racially diverse debaters. Last year’s NPDI champion and current UC Berkeley debater Nadia Cochinwala led this assembly.

Unlike previous years, speaker awards were not given to debaters. The Parliamentary Debate at Berkeley team collectively decided to scrap speaker awards to promote an unbiased system of rewards. "[We] opted out of giving speaker awards this year due to their inherently subjective and often gendered nature," said tournament and team director Trevor Greenan. While speaker points were still used as a mechanism to break ties and establish brackets for elimination rounds, debaters did not receive awards.

"While this elimination of speaker awards may not be the ideal long-term solution to these problematic norms," Greenan said, "we hope that our discussion of these biases can at least draw attention to this issue." The Berkeley team's overall hope is to bring larger conversations about equity in debate into the spotlight. 

Meanwhile, in the junior varsity finals, Ashland’s Hannah Doyle & Alex Webb defeated Cupertino’s Yash Rajwanshi & Varun Shenoy, affirming the resolution, "The United States should significantly reduce economic sanctions against Russia," and winning on a 3-0 decision. This division’s results differed greatly from last year, when Campolindo’s JV teams closed out the tournament.

However, Campolindo took home the tournament’s sweepstakes this year by breaking 6 teams to double-octofinals in the open division and 3 teams into JV outrounds. Evergreen claimed the second place sweepstakes award, while there was a three-way tie for third place between Los Altos, Ashland, and Washington. 


Los Altos Shirley Cheng & Ryan Lee def. Campolindo Kaveh Boostanpour & Jordan Li (2-1)

Campolindo Shannon Bonet & Sharon Yuan def. Nueva Adam Keller & Paco Poler (2-1)

Ashland John Ropp & Rob Stallman def. Irvington Rishabh Meswani & William Yoo (3-0)

Sonoma Caleb Kornfein & Aris Saxena def. Campolindo David Gomez-Sui & Krish Visht (2-1)

Los Altos/Notre Dame Spencer Dembner & Lilly Hackworth def. Campolindo Austen Li & Ming Qian (2-1)

Mountain View Javin Pombra & Danny Vesurai w/o Los Altos Alex Wong & William Zeng (n/a)

Evergreen Anirudh Mani & Janav Sharma def. Nueva Leo Rossi & Neeraj Sharma (3-0)

Evergreen Poojan Shukla & Marek Zielinski def. Washington Shiranthi Jawahar & Vijay Raveendran (3-0)


Sonoma Kornfein & Saxena def. Evergreen Mani & Sharma (2-1)

Evergreen Shukla & Zielinski def. Ashland Ropp & Stallman (2-1)

Los Altos Cheng & Lee def. Campolindo Bonet & Yuan (2-1)

Los Altos/Notre Dame Dembner & Hackworth w/o Mountain View Pombra & Vesurai (N/A)


Sonoma KS def. Los Altos CL (3-0)

Evergreen SZ def. Los Altos/Notre Dame DH (2-1)


Sonoma KS def. Evergreen SZ (4-3)

Results can be found here.

Facebook post can be found here.

Our Northern California correspondents are Shannon Bonet, who debates for Campolindo High School, and Emily Her, who debates for Dougherty Valley High School.