The Florida Oceanfront National Speech & Debate Association District’s “Blue Wave” World Schools Debate (WSD) team — comprised of Wellington High School’s Brandon Schloss and Christopher Slaughter, Dreyfoos School of the Arts’ Michael Bole, and Boca Raton High School’s Natalie Navarrete — placed fifth at the 2018 NSDA National Championship Tournament held in Fort Lauderdale June 18-22.
In addition, Bole was recognized as the fourth-best speaker out of 1,100 competitors overall in WSD, and Navarrete placed 24th.
“Being on stage at the NSDA National Championship tournament is something most debaters can only dream about,” Schloss said. “For me, this accomplishment is something I’ll never forget.”
Navarrete added, “I never thought I would get to say I would be part of a team that was fifth in the nation.”
Oceanfront went 5-1 in preliminary rounds and was seeded 20th overall out of 197 teams. In break rounds, they defeated teams from Wyoming, Arizona and Texas before falling to defending champion New York City on a 2-1 decision. East Texas defeated China for the championship. “I was in shock when the judge announced we were advancing to the quarterfinal round,” Bole said. “I never doubted our ability as a team to make it that far, but being able to hear it was an unforgettable feeling.”
Wellington High School debate coach Paul Gaba led the hybrid team. “After the national championship topics were released, they got to work,” he said. “They had online brainstorming discussions and practice rounds, and we even traveled to Broward County to scrimmage against their team.”
Gaba said the experience of competing at the 2017 national championship, where Oceanfront placed 32nd overall, and traveling to Boston for the Harvard World Schools Debate Invitational paid huge dividends.
Schloss and Slaughter just graduated from WHS, while Bole and Navarrete are entering their senior years. The returning WSD students have also been invited to apply for the USA National World Schools Debate traveling team.
“Going into the tournament… little would I know this would be my biggest achievement at the largest-scale tournament,” Slaughter said.
“Being a part of the 2017 Florida Oceanfront World Schools team definitely helped prepare me for the 2018 NSDA National Tournament,” Schloss added. “Through competing last year, I was able to grasp the nature and format of World Schools Debate and develop a greater understanding of the level of competition.”
World Schools Debate is a three-on-three format. While a given team may consist of three to five members, only three students from a team participate in a given debate. Teams are assigned one of two sides in each round — either the “government team” proposing the motion, or the opposition team advocating the rejection of the motion. There are four speeches for each side — three eight-minute presentations, and a four-minute final commentary speech.
Prior to the tournament, the team decided Navarrete should be the first speaker, while Bole should deliver from both the second and fourth speaker positions. Schloss and Slaughter alternated the third slot.
“Other students could have easily cried about lack of speaking involvement,” Gaba said. “As seniors, Brandon and Chris could have each pointed out this was their final high school debate tournament, and they should be afforded more opportunities to speak. But they didn’t; Brandon and Chris chose to split the role of third speaker. This is such an amazingly mature and selfless attitude, and it led to wonderful results. I could not be prouder of the leadership and poise these two young men showed.”
Resolutions come in two types: prepared motions and impromptu motions.
“I thought the hardest round was our octofinals round,” Navarrete said, where the topic dealt with whether Puerto Rico should become an independent nation state. “We were on the opposition side, which was our weakest prep, and we were going against the best team in our bracket. But we won!”
“The hardest topic I debated was one regarding Puerto Rico’s independence from the United States,” Bole agreed. “There were a lot of grounds in the debate that needed to be covered as far as the morality and the practicality of Puerto Rico’s independence. It took a lot to really focus in on the key issues.”
While Puerto Rico might have been the most difficult round, Navarrete said the motion, “This house believes states should not celebrate nationally important historical figures involved in deeply immoral actions” was the most difficult for which to prepare.
“It was tough to keep the debate international and put aside our own personal beliefs, especially because the debate is so tense in the U.S.,” Navarrete said.
All topics needed to be debated from a global perspective, meaning teams needed to stay away from United States-specific argumentation. And while teams had advance time to research and put together arguments on prepared motions, they only had one hour in which to structure impromptu arguments, and had to do so without access to either the internet or their coach. Their only resources were a hard-copy dictionary and an almanac.
All four debaters called the competitive event the most fun they’d had in their debate careers. This echoed sentiments of the 2017 Oceanfront team, where Schloss, Slaughter, Caramen McDaniel and Connor Yeackley all voiced their enthusiastic support of the event.
McDaniel — currently attending Florida State University — was fith-best speaker overall in Birmingham last year, and was active in helping this year’s team research, write and edit their cases. Schloss and Slaughter will be assisting Bole, Navarrete, and the rest of the 2019 Oceanfront WSD program the same way.
For more information about Wellington Debate, visit www.wellingtondebate.com.