The Great Debaters

Everyone has seen the trophies spilling into the hallway outside of the debate room. “Double octafinalist,” “Champions,” “First Place.” Inside the debate room, there is a whole shelf dedicated solely to championship trophies. It’s intimidating to say the least. But the trophies barely begin to display the success of Stratford’s Debate Team.

The last four years were particularly fruitful in bringing home the hardware.

Teammates Andrew Jones and Hemanth Sanjeev dominated tournaments, making Stratford’s local name a national one. Ranked number one in the country, no one wanted to see the pair part.

But the dream team finally split last spring, when Jones graduated. He is attending Emory University this year on a full scholarship.

How will the loss of Jones affect this year’s team? Are they rebuilding, or just reloading?

“I think we’ll be really good. You know, we still have Hemanth. Hemanth’s one of the best debaters in the nation, so we’ll still be really good,” sophomore debater Robert Clark said.

Clark isn’t the only one who remains confident.

“Yeah we will be good this year. We got invited to the Greenhill Round Robin, which only invited the top 16 teams. They don’t reveal the order, but we are in the top 16,” Sanjeev said.

“Will we be the best team in the nation? Maybe. Are we still in the top 16? Yes. We’ll still be good,” added Ms. Abbie Schirmer, who has coached Stratford’s debaters since 2008.

While Jones may never be fully replaced, Schirmer believes that sophomore Dylan Ogle will come close.

“Dylan Ogle is our next upcoming star,” Schirmer said. “He went to camp, and did really well. He’s going to be debating with Hemanth this year.”

But Sanjeev is a senior, and he too will be graduating soon. When asked about the team after Sanjeev graduates, Ms. Schirmer said, “We’ll survive. We still have people. We still have people coming up.”

Clark has his doubts.

“I don’t know. It is hard enough to replace one of them, let alone both. There is a lot of promise in the upcoming teams, but who knows if anyone will ever be ‘Hemanth and Andrew.’”