SHS Speech and Debate team places top ten in the nation

Vikram Sundaram at the 2022 Speech and Debate National Tournament from @solonspeech on Instagram

Vikram Sundaram at the 2022 Speech and Debate National Tournament from @solonspeech on Instagram

Kassidy Samuelraj, Contributing Writer

Solon High School’s Speech and Debate team was awarded a School of Distinction award by the National Speech and Debate Association for the first time in the team’s history. The team also had 24 qualifiers for the 2022 Speech and Debate National Tournament this summer in Louisville, Ky. In order to qualify for Speech and Debate nationals, competitors had to place in the top two positions of their respective events in the National Qualifier Tournament.

The teams qualifiers include Max Zuckerman, Piyush Chitnis, Michelle Park, Pinak Chitnis, Mughda Patil, Aditya Kalahasti, Aidan Cullers, Aparna Srikanth, Harry Sanjeevan, Viresh Mittal, Mehak Sankhla, Eshan Haq, Srihan Ananad, Mira Atwah, Tyler Murray, Abigail Orenanya, Iris Yu, Anoushka Dubey, Nicole Williams, Jack Williams and Joshua Russman along with officers Dev Ahuja, Rithika Goli and Vikram Sundaram.

Last June, Senior Speech and Debate officer Dev Ahuja participated and placed well in the National tournament. Ahuja made it into the final round of US Extemp and ended up placing fifth in the nation. Ahuja has been on the Speech and Debate team since seventh grade which he claims has contributed to his ability to succeed.

“The middle school program is pretty new for a lot of schools but because we have had it since seventh grade, I think it gave us that time to adjust,” Ahuja said. “So when we got into the high school, we were easily able to jump into competing against all of the different grade levels instead of just middle schoolers.”

The success of the team also came with responsibilities. The team put in a lot of time and work to be able to get this far. Senior Speech and Debate officer and National qualifier Vikram Sundaram focuses a lot of his time on preparing for tournaments along with running extracurriculars involving Speech and Debate. Sundaram and Ahuja even have a non-profit organization to help other students earn Speech education.

“We have a non-profit called The Ohio Exempt Initiative and that’s meant to provide free public speaking education for people across the country,” Sundaram said.

The responsibility of being on a high-level Speech and Debate team also comes with stress for newer members. Sophomore Speech and Debate member Maya Nayar expressed how she feels Speech and Debate can be very stressful if you aren’t well prepared for the tournaments. Nayar spends a lot of time preparing for her speeches.

Dev Ahuja at the 2022 Speech and Debate National Tournament from @solonspeech on Instagram

“The day before one of my tournaments, I just go through and memorize my speech,” Nayar said. “So, I spent five hours on that because it’s a ten minute speech. But writing it, if I actually set my mind to it, I could do it in around two days.”

Although Speech and Debate does take time and responsibility, it also has benefits. According to Ahuja, qualifying and placing in Nationals felt as if hard work paid off.

“It’s like second nature. It’s muscle memory and then it’s almost fun at that point,” Ahuja said.