Policy debate whizzes Justin
Chan and Patrick Berger
By Beatrice Esteban, Courier Staff Writer
Seniors Patrick Berger and Justin Chan, who took second in the nation in Policy Debate at the 2009 National Forensics League National tournament, representing the world-renowned James Logan Forensics team, have their sights set on a new goal: to cement Logan's newly won reputation as a policy debate powerhouse.
Every year, the national tournament – funded by the Lincoln Financial Group – hosts rounds for events in both speech and debate; however, in order for a student, debate team, or duo team to enter, they must first compete at a district qualifier tournament. Schools are also bestowed with School of Excellence awards at the national tournament.
This year, the NFL Nationals tournament was held from June 14 to June 19 in Birmingham, Alabama, with rounds spread out throughout three high school campuses in the city. The theme for this year’s tournament was “Stars Fell on Alabama 2009.”
The competition at the National tournament is very difficult, especially because it is a conglomeration of many skilled teams from across the nation. In fact, when asked how he felt about doing so well, Chan said, “It’s pretty crazy. I did not anticipate being in the final round.” When asked how he felt about his success over the years, he simply said, “I’ve beaten teams from ‘prestigious schools.’”
The topic used at the tournament was “Resolved: the United States federal government should substantially increase alternative energy incentives in the United States.” California as a state managed to close out the final round of the tournament since the opposing team was from Damien High School in La Verne. The opposing team was comprised of Sean Hernandez and Reid Ehrlich-Quinn from La Verne, who negated the topic for that round.
When asked what his plans were for this upcoming debate season, Berger said, “I can’t speak for Justin on this, but I have three goals: one, clear to elimination rounds at the TOC’s; two, win State in Policy; and three, win State overall as a team.” Although Chan did not bring up the TOC’s he did say that “above anything else, winning the State tournament as a team” was the only thing he really wanted to do this year – a sensible desire, considering he is the President of Forensics this year.
Added into these aspirations and goals, Berger said that “the general overlying goal is that I want to ensure that Logan rises as the policy debate powerhouse of the West Coast.”
These may be bold aspirations, but Berger and Chan are definitely a force to be reckoned with – not only because of their progress at the National tournament, but also because of the process they went through to get that far. They defeated teams from schools across the country like College Preparatory School, Rowland Hall St. Marks, Brophy College Preparatory, and Bellarmine College Preparatory.
They received a bid to the infamous Tournament of Champions after reaching the quarterfinal round of the University of Southern California tournament – the first James Logan Policy team to ever do so. The tournament requires that potential competitors have at least two bids, but that was no problem for them; the team then managed to earn another bid at the Stanford tournament upon reaching quarterfinals once again.
In fact, the team is so well-known that they are known to teammates and opponents alike as “Logan BC” or sometimes even just “BC” – the code they are given on postings at debate tournaments.
Assistant coach of the Logan Forensics team and head coach of the Policy debate squad Tom Woodhead said about the team’s accomplishment: “It’s very impressive for a few reasons. First, they’re both juniors. It’s rare for juniors of any school to do that well. Also, it’s very rare that public schools do well at Nationals. Interestingly enough, out of all the teams in the semi-final round, Logan was the only public school there.”
Another reason, Woodhead said, is that “Nationals is so hard to predict. You have good teams, close decisions, and a mix of debate styles. That’s why getting second is so extraordinary. The number of rounds that they had to debate to get that far – sixteen – is like a marathon. Seeing how each round is an hour and a half… that’s a lot of time added up, dedicated to debate.”
Although they were not able to go to the Tournament of Champions, Woodhead then said that their success at Nationals “was a cap to a very strong season. They settled out of records and broke barriers. No Logan team has ever gotten a TOC bid; they got two. They weren’t able to go due to some problems, but it was nice compensation for them to do well at Nationals.”
Berger, on his achievement, said:
“I didn't just feel happy as I stood on the final round stage of National Championships. I felt proud - not just of my partner and myself, but proud of the hundreds of past Logan debaters over several decades that had worked as hard as they could to advance our program, yet had never made it onto the stage themselves. Logan has been the national leader in speech and interpretation events for years; it was an honor to be a part of the team that finally put our debate program on the national map.”
The Logan Forensics team has been nothing but supportive of them and their achievement.
Senior Jaymee Go, who is also a member of the Policy squad at Logan, said about their achievement, “I was really happy for them. Patrick and Justin are two of the hardest-working and talented debaters I know, and they definitely deserved to be there.”
Sophomore Danya Chen, who was a freshman and junior varsity member of Logan Policy in the midst of Berger and Chan’s colorful junior year, said that their accomplishment showed her that “no matter where we are from, we are still able to strive and reach for the gold.”
Junior Harris Barakzoy, another Logan Policy debater, said, “It was amazing to see my friends that I see every day at school have such great success on a National scale. It really shows that if you put the work into whatever you’re doing, you can go far.”
Another member of the James Logan Forensics team, senior Jeremy Sharma, said that “even though Forensics isn't widely supported at our school, Patrick Berger and Justin Chan literally beat the odds, beating funding, low appreciation, and high difficulty competition to make all of Union City proud."