By Deborah Oh
Junior Alex Zhao can be recognized at school by his bright blue backpack and what his friends call “the jawline of a god,” but what he really deserves recognition for are his stellar debate skills. His most recent notable achievements were at the Greenhill Fall Classic, which took place in Dallas, Texas, from September 17-20, and at the Voices Invitational, which took place in San Jose from October 9-12.
The Greenhill Fall Classic was split into two parts; a round robin for the first two days, and the actual tournament for the latter two. Alex had a record of 7-7 in the round robin, which only the top 16 out of the 85 debaters at the tournament were invited to participate in. Alex had a record of 5-1 in the preliminary rounds, allowing him to advance into the elimination rounds, where he eventually reached the octofinals and took the 5th place speaker award.
On his experiences at the Greenhill Fall Classic, Alex said, “I didn’t do as well as I hoped. Even though I wasn’t completely happy with my performance, I was glad that I learned a lot and met people from many different states. I think this tournament was a good starting point; it showed me the several flaws in my debating that I can improve on and displayed the level of competition in debate this year.”
The Voices Invitational was also split into a round robin and the actual tournament. The round robin invited the top 12 of the 97 debaters at the tournament. Alex had a 9-1 record and made it to the final round. In the actual tournament, Alex went undefeated in the six preliminary and four elimination rounds, eventually winning the whole tournament.
Breaking into the elimination rounds at the Greenhill Fall Classic and winning the Voices Invitational earned Alex the two TOC bids that he needed. Held at the University of Kentucky, the Tournament of Champions, or TOC, is the most renowned debate tournament in the nation. To enter the Tournament of Champions, a debater must win at least two “bids” by advancing into the final rounds in a small selection of regional tournaments.
Alex also competed in the Tournament of Champions last year as a sophomore against the top debaters in the nation. Due to his success at the TOC and other regional tournaments last year, he was ranked nationally at #32 by VBriefly, a debate institute. In the new rankings for this year, he was placed at #12.
However, despite his outstanding achievements, Alex remains humble and looks forward to further developing his debate skills.
“Debate is a great way to learn about all sorts of topics,” he said. “I’m happy that I’m supported by a great team and community at La Cañada High School.”
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