Family feud

The debate team poses for a photo. Coach Dave Schnell called the 2011 team the best in the three years he'd been coaching.
The debate team poses for a photo. Coach Dave Schnell called the 2011 team the best in the three years he's been coaching.

By Meghan Doyle
Staff Writer

When students enter Room 218D, they are inviting themselves into a relationship like no other. Because according to senior and debate team captain Emma McMullen, the 2011 debate team is its own little family.
This year, the debate team has racked up several prestigious individual awards, including Best Speaker and Critics’ Choice awards, and attained third place in a competition at Deerfield on Jan. 8 against other large schools such as Wheeling, Stevenson and Deerfield. The 30-member team is currently gearing up for their last competition, which is taking place on April 15.
Having been a “family member” since freshman year, McMullen said this is the most success the team has experienced in a long time because of the dedication of each member.
“In the past, we’ve seen a lot of people start off strong and then sort of trail off in their participation, as well as [the] effort that they’re putting forth,” McMullen said. “This year, we’ve really seen a lot of consistent effort from everybody, throughout the whole year, and that’s definitely what has allowed our team to be as successful as we were.”
Sophomore Carolyn DeSalvo is one of the dedicated members of the debate team.  She said she puts in at least two to three hours a week in research and preparation for competitions.
DeSalvo said although it’s required to do research to be on the team, she chooses to put in a little extra time to fully prepare herself for competitions. She said doing this definitely helps when tournament time comes up.
Debate coach Dave Schnell said this is definitely the best the team has done in the three years he’s been coaching. He attributes it to the eight seniors on the team, six of whom have participated since their freshman year, and how they have made the younger members feel welcome by setting a good example.
McMullen said the four-year seniors are really good friends, but the newer seniors have also found their place on the team.
“It’s going to be really weird to just not see [the other four-year seniors] every week next year because we have grown so close,” McMullen said.
Schnell said all the seniors this year have been great leaders on the team and will be very difficult to replace in coming years. Next year, Schnell will only have three incoming seniors who have participated since freshman year returning to the team.
In order to overcome the lack of upperclassmen, Schnell plans to revamp the team by making research formats more “user-friendly” (to find out more about how Congressional Debate works, click here) and appoint veteran students to leadership positions on the team, such as captains and co-captains, as the team has done in the past.
Despite the graduating seniors, McMullen said the next year’s seniors will be able to maintain the family dynamic that has developed this year.
“I know that the juniors coming in are very good speakers, and I hope that they’re able to pull the team together as much as we were this year and keep that strong team foundation,” McMullen said. “We’ve really acted like a family this year, as opposed to just people competing against each other.”
Junior Owen Hoepfner, also a debate member since freshman year, agrees.
Hoepfner said that in previous years on debate, there has been more of an emphasis on winning individual awards. This year, however, he has witnessed a shift to winning more team awards.    “Now that we’ve tasted what it feels like to win as a team, I think if people really put the team before themselves, we can keep [doing well] in the future and taste success again,” Hoepfner said.