Return to Headlines

CHS Debate Team State Runners Up - 1/22

The Chesterton High School Debate team finished their Indiana season as the ISSDA State Runners-up.  The team amassed 83.5 total points, which was 3.5 points behind Carmel High School and 35.5 points ahead of third place Fishers High School.  The second-place finish is the sixth time that the team has ended the season as runners-up.  Although they didn’t add to their record 29 state titles in the debate, the team rebounded nicely after their 4th place tournament during last year’s virtual season.  This was Carmel’s first ever team state title in Debate.

The event of Public Forum led the team and resulted in the school’s only individual title winners with seniors Emma Ekblaw and Sidney Pittman.   Ekblaw and Pittman defeated Carmel’s Kate Smith and Marissa Finney by a 3-2 judges decision in final round.  They represented the affirmative position on the resolution that “the United States federal government should legalize all illicit drugs.”  Smith and Finney had to run a gauntlet of the eventual state champions’ teammates as all four of CHS’s entries broke into the Quarterfinal round of eight.   Riste Miroski and Sam Burris had the first shot at them as the preliminary two seed.  They fell via a 2-1 decision and were forced to settle for quarterfinalist status.  They were joined by fellow seniors Ethan Kroft and Hamza Shali who were defeated by another Carmel team on a 2-1 decision.  Juniors Zander Fish and Saanya Agarwal were given the next shot against Smith/Finney, but again were narrowly defeated on a 2-1 decision and finished in third place.  The third time was the charm as Ekblaw/Pittman stopped them by focusing and applying the ‘harm principle’ to the resolution – arguing effectively that legalization who best limit the inherent harms of drug use. 

Ekblaw/Pittman are CHS’s sixth Public Forum state champion since the event’s creation in 2004.  It also ended a drought of 12 years.  Their coach, CHS teacher Joshua Coots, couldn’t have been prouder of them stating that, “Sidney and Emma demonstrated what hard work and serious talent can accomplish.”  Among all of the judges, the four public forum teams had an astounding 44-14 record for the tournament. 

The other events offered up a series of close calls for the team.  All four entries broke to the top 8 in Policy debate, but in somewhat of a surprise, Carmel ran up the score in what has been an event that Chesterton has traditionally dominated.  The quarterfinal elimination round had the potential to essentially decide the tournament for either school.  The eventual state champions, Carmel’s Jade and Sage Mehta, defeated CHS’s 8 seeded Katerina Markwart and Gwen Lester. Next, the eventual state runners-up from Carmel defeated juniors Riley Hawksworth and Freedom Eiden on a 2-1 decision.  The other rounds were a Carmel vs Carmel and a Chesterton vs Chesterton round.  While the youngest of the Carmel entries hit each other; CHS’s defending state title holders, Mark Jewison and Milena Veltri were forced to take out their 4th seeded teammates of Alaina McGrogan and Milena Letic.    Jewison and Veltri were then matched up with the Mehta sisters to set up a rematch of last years title round – only this time Carmel came out on top and Jewison/Veltri finish out their Indiana careers with a 3rd place finish. 

The next close call came in the form of junior Gretta Burke finishing in third place as a semifinalist in Lincoln-Douglas debate.  Burke accumulated a 5-1 preliminary record to claim the 7th seed in one of the tournament’s most competitive field.  She defeated a student from Columbus North on a unanimous decision in octafinals and then repeated the feat in quarters against West Lafayette.  In semifinals, she was narrowly defeated 2-1 by the eventual runner-up from Brebeuf Jesuit. 

All four of Chesterton’s Congressional debaters broke to the semifinal round; at which point, their youngest teammate Payton Whalen, bowed out to the competition.  The team’s three seniors all advanced to final round with Peyton Day finishing 4th overall behind students from Avon, Fishers, and Cathedral high school.  Day won his preliminary and semifinal chambers but received mixed results from the judges in the final round.  Savannah Hutchinson finished her state career with a 10th place finish, despite one of the judges identifying her as first in the final.  Trina Gonzalez finished as the 12th best in the state.   

The future looks incredibly bright for the team as Chesterton took a record number of first year debaters to the tournament.  Incredibly, there were more first year competitors (12) than seniors on this year’s team (11).  Rounding out the rest of CHS’s entries were seniors, Nathan Osborn, Joshua Fieffer, and Natalie Nunez.  Juniors on the team included Gigi Hanner, Katie Pampalone, George Rone, Bennett Proffit, and Jack Jessen.  Sophomores included Sophia Worden and Emily Fleischhacker and Carmen Thomas, Lucas Koch, and Caillyn Hilliar all made the team as freshman.