After a Sluggish Start, the Debate Team Comes out Roaring
By John Kim
While Northside is known for being mediocre in most sports, this is not the case for its debate team. This holds especially true for Alex Pinheiro, Adv. 907, and Magali Ortiz, Adv. 911, who have enjoyed tremendous success in their debate career at Northside. With this being their fourth and final year competing for the team, Pinheiro and Ortiz began the season with high expectations. However, due to various circumstances, their season didn’t start out the way they had hoped, with a rather slow start for the veteran pair. For one, Pinheiro and Ortiz participated in Greenhill Round Robin, a prestigious tournament that Northside has never been invited to before. With high expectations in the tournament, the pair didn’t have the best performance. Pinheiro said, “It was frustrating because even though we were ranked among the top speakers at the tournament, we didn't actually win enough rounds to get to elimination rounds, due to a major strategic mistake we made in one round, and a mistake by a judge in another.” However, the pair showed their experience a few weeks later, ultimately qualifying for the Tournament of Champions.
The Northside debate team came out roaring on the weekend of Oct. 6 at the annual Trevian Invitational at New Trier. This is one of the biggest debate events on the national debate calendar that features over one hundred teams from 17 different states. With a chip on their shoulder and ready to turn their season around, Ortiz said, “Going into New Trier, we were really determined to prove that we are among the top teams in the country.”
The Ortiz and Pinheiro duo got all the way to semifinals, beating multiple powerhouse teams across the nation to earn their bid to the national Tournament of Champions, held every spring at the University of Kentucky.
At the tournament, Ortiz and Pinheiro bulldozed their way to a 5-1 record in the preliminary rounds. Preliminary rounds consist of six debates, where the pool of teams are randomly matched for the first two matches then power matched based on record from the third to sixth match (for example, a team with five wins and one loss would play another team with five wins and one loss). After the preliminaries, only select teams with the best records are seeded in a single elimination bracket. Individually, Ortiz was recognized as the fifth overall speaker and Pinheiro the eighth heading into the elimination rounds. This time, the pair made a splash on the biggest stage, earning a win over a team from Westminster, Georgia in the round of 32. Their win over Lexington, Massachusetts in the round of 16 secured their bid to national qualifiers, but they were just getting started.
In the quarterfinals, Ortiz and Pinheiro upset one of the top teams in the entire country, Montgomery Bell, Tennessee, before finally going down against a tough Westminster team in the semi-finals.
The rest of the Northside debate team also performed well, with fellow senior duo Kathy Martinez, Adv. 910 and Wasim Rahaman, Adv. 909 going 5-1 in the prelims and defeating a Payton team that earned their own bid to nationals. The duo of Kenny Larson, Adv. 902 and Christian Sparks, Adv. 905 almost joined their teammates in the elimination rounds, but a tough loss to Whitney Young meant they came up short.
When talking about their performance, Ortiz said, “We beat some old rivals, won a qualifying bid to the Tournament of Champions, and beat the third best team in the country in quarterfinals before we lost in semifinals. New Trier is known for being a notoriously difficult tournament, so it was a big confidence booster to perform so strongly after our mediocre season debut at Greenhill.”
On Oct. 29, Ortiz and Pinheiro received their second bid to Tournament of Champions which locks them into the national field. In the University of Michigan debate tournament, the pair advanced to the quarterfinals. With 166 teams from 21 states being featured in this tournament, Ortiz and Pinheiro started off with a very good 5-2 record in the prelims. In the elimination rounds, they beat a team from Paideia, Georgia on a 2-1 decision to secure their second bid to the Tournament of Champions. They went on to beat Montgomery Bell, the same team they had defeated in the quarterfinals of the New Trier tournament. With the bid to the nationals secure, the pair decided to forfeit and prepare for nationals. The Top 15 rankings of national debate coach poll is releasing soon and mostly likely, Ortiza and Pinheiro will be among premier powerhouse teams from the country, representing Chicago Public Schools.
To those interested in joining, Pinheiro said, “Our younger members also performed really well, and we have high hopes for the future of the team!”