Stamford High Sophomore Qualifies for National Debate Tournament

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Sophomore Ryan Shoztic competes in a virtual debate tournament.

Sofia Sarak, Editor-in-Chief

Sophomore Ryan Shoztic has recently qualified for the National Final in the Ronald Reagan Great Communicator Debate Series. He will travel to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Southern California this summer to compete against 15 other students.

To qualify, Shoztic had to have been one of the two finalists in the Northeast Regional Competition. This year, competitors in each region had to debate the topic: “The United States should replace the electoral college with the popular vote in presidential elections.” Shoztic competed in a total of eight rounds, reaching and winning the finals.

Preparation for the competition took Shoztic months of reading Supreme Court cases and analyzing census data in order to prepare his case and write his essays; he also placed a focus on understanding how the issue affects the average American.

“No matter how much you prepare you’re never quite comfortable,” Shoztic said. “Every round is an uphill battle, and it really comes down to who can be that great communicator.”

In terms of competing in the national finals, Shoztic is maintaining a positive attitude. He hopes to make it to the quarter finals, and beyond. 

“It’s nerve-wracking. I’ve competed at national tournaments before, but never one with this talented of competition. My expectation is to give it my all and that’s all I can ever do,” he said.

Stamford High Debate Coach Jeremy White commended Shoztic on his impressive performance, noting how he has reached nationals after only two years of high school debate.

“Ryan is as dedicated a kid as I have ever had,” White said. “He is one of the best debaters in the state, without a doubt.”

Other than Shoztic’s national recognition, the Stamford High Debate team as a whole had a successful year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Connecticut Debate Association held all of its events virtually (and Stamford High practices followed suit). Despite this, the team was able to maintain, and even improve, its status from years prior.

“This is probably the best season [the team has] ever had,” White stated.

Highlights included eight members qualifying for the Coolidge Cup, a national invitational speech and debate tournament which has 40 competitors in total. The team also had 19 members qualify for the state tournament – including all eight of the seniors – with senior Panos Ketonis winning fifth place Varsity Speaker.

“Our streak of final finishes was something I never saw another school achieve,” said senior Alexander Zajac, a four-year member of the team. “We had an extremely dominant year and set a reputation for Stamford High that we hope the incoming classes will maintain.”

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