This year’s highlights post is coming much later than last year’s for two reasons. First, we’ve been really busy at Premier since we’ve just about doubled the amount of camp we’re doing this summer and doubled the number of students from last year. Second, my brother John was the first Loyola LDer to qualify to NSDA Nationals in ages. So, for the first time in my coaching and judging career, my season didn’t end at TOC, and the highlight reel continued through June!

I judged 158 LD debates this season at 17 different tournaments, nearly doubling my involvement on the circuit from the past season, and it was a heck of a lot of fun. At tournaments like the Glenbrooks, I was coaching six eventual TOC-qualifiers. It was a perpetual (friendly) battle between Team Bob East, comprised of Cambridge OS, Cambridge PO, and Cypress Bay JS, and Team Bob West, comprised of Loyola AP, Loyola BS, and Loyola JO. I posted a lot of sappy statuses about these wonderful students on Facebook throughout the season, but now it’s time to turn outward and commend some of the most memorable performances of 2015-2016.

I’m writing this with no particular method or order in mind, and if I left someone out, sorry! Don’t take my ramblings to heart.

I don’t have a truly hilarious story like last year’s transcription of Kinkaid TG v Brentwood JL, but maybe you do! Please comment your favorite debates and debaters from this season down below or on our Facebook page! Now without further ado…

*Loyola Semis – Crossroads NS v Harvard-Westlake NS*

John Scoggin and I see eye-to-eye on just about everything, but we still disagree about this debate. John voted aff, Monica Amestoy and I voted neg. John thinks we’re just hacks for the afropessimism kritik, and I think he just hates any and all ontology arguments.

Nonetheless, the reason this debate stays with me is because it was the first of 10,000 times I watched Nick Steele go for the afropessimism K, which is really funny considering what I told John after we watched this debate. As someone who researched and went for afropessimism in college policy debate, I know a good 2NR on it when I see one. I remember very specifically mentioning to John that night that Nick had become such a flexible debater as a senior, now adding the K to his expanding repertoire. His 2NR was very solid on the line-by-line and seemed adaptive to the 1AR strategy.

Little did I know that Nick would proceed to give the exact same 2NR in front of me probably half a dozen times throughout the season, starting next weekend in doubles of Greenhill against Dulles AW. Of course, the 2016 TOC Champ was an extremely flexible debater, but it was still pretty funny that I had to eat my words a week later.

*Voices Round 1 – Oakwood JG v Meadows AT*

Speaking of eating my words…. Jack Gill was one of the debaters we worked closely with at Premier 15 last summer. He’s a really smart guy and smart debater but has a penchant for silly arguments. One of the things he would do in practice debates last summer was that anytime someone read a kritik against him, he would pull out this terrible high school policy backfile of about 8 perms and just read them straight through, no matter what. We tried in vain to get him to see how bad the “apology perm” really was, but we had no luck.

In this debate at Voices, Asia Thomas read a kritik, and so of course, Jack whipped out his giant block of bad perms. Asia would have won the round fairly handily, but in the bottom of the 2NR, she forgot to flip her flow to the next page. And what argument was flowed on the top of the back page that she forgot to answer? Yep. The apology perm. I had to vote for Jack Gill on the very argument that we had spent a whole month of the summer convincing him not to make.

*Greenhill Round 3 – Meadows SK v Apple Valley PH*

I enjoyed watching both of these debaters this year, but in this round, Prince Hyeamang impressively overcame a serious challenge that has plagued all of us at some point: technical difficulties. His computer just wouldn’t work, and it delayed the round for about 10 minutes before he finally seemed to give up and just start the 1NC with what he had in the speech doc.

It was a solid 1NC with a topicality argument, a counterplan, a disad and some case answers. Now, last year at TOC I had judged Prince and he went for a pretty poor theory argument (neg must specify alt status in speech), so I had no expectation that he would be any good on the T debate this year.

I was dead wrong. Sara Kaplan gave a very solid 1AR with about 8 good answers to the T shell proper, but Prince’s 2NR on T was outstanding – excellent overviews with levels upon levels of weighing between definitions, standards, and voters. I was convinced that he had just prepped the heck out of this particular T debate and just had really good blocks on every issue.

But again, I was dead wrong. I called for a card after the debate, so I saw the negative speech doc, and Prince had zero of the 1NC T shell pre-written, let alone any extensive set of blocks. I was looking at a header called “Topicality” and a single definition, and that was it! Prince efficiently delivered a really solid T shell in his second neg debate on the new topic so well and went for it with such thoroughness that he tricked me into believing it was all pre-written. For that, he gets serious respect for his topicality chops.

*Greenhill Doubles – Interlake AL v Law Magnet DD*

Both of these debaters ran Kant just a little too much for my liking, but in this debate, both had great strategic vision that made it a real joy to watch. The 1NC was a Kant NC with a very short PIC and case turns, and the 1AR was entirely PICs bad theory. Alisa Liu’s 1AR should have diversified its outs a little more, and Dino De La O’s 2NR punished the 1AR as best possible – a huge ‘drop the argument’ block and extremely thorough line-by-line on the PICs bad shell proper. A tiny extension of a case turn was all he needed at that point. This was a near-perfect 2NR and one of the best speeches I saw on theory all year.

Alisa’s 2AR is really memorable for me because she is so strategically-inclined that the content of the arguments themselves are often irrelevant if the strategy is good. Seeing that most of Dino’s ‘drop the argument’ block appealed to the value of substantive debate, getting back to debating the topic, deterring bad theory, etc., she grouped them and proceeded to argue “topic debate bad” and “theory debate good,” impact turning all of his arguments on that part of the flow. I love creative strategies like that, and of course, I love theory debate, so this round sticks out in my mind.

*Voices RR Round 5 – Harker SP v Peninsula JL*

I had become increasingly annoyed by the state of the LD meta-game on September/October. Early in the topic, everyone on the national circuit decided that we would only debate underneath generic “oppression” frameworks backed by the Curry card, the Winter & Leighton card, and occasional Trifonas card. Given this decision and the narrowness of the topic (and the next topic too), there were no nuke war impacts and no moral philosophy debates whatsoever. Sometimes you would see more nuanced frameworks, but these didn’t create any better debates than the generic oppression frameworks because they were often just specifying the type of oppression and doing it in obviously unfair ways (E.g. Greenhill’s sexual rights framework in conjunction with a plan that gives adolescents sexual rights…). So, while I wouldn’t say I was dismayed, I was at least unhappy with the diversity of positions we were seeing. Every aff was the same generic ROB + specific, unturnable plan, and every neg was some kind of boring K.

But this debate was different! Finally, someone did some research! Srivatsav Pyda read the standard hormone treatment plan that everyone was reading on that topic. Jonas LeBarillec read a PIC that was just hormone blockers, a specific kind of treatment, and he went for the CP and case for 6 minutes of the 2NR. Besides being one of Jonas’s best performances in front of me, I was overjoyed that I actually got to watch a fascinating debate on the topic that didn’t just involve avoidance through contrived ROB strategies and topicality! These two were debating the merits of various mechanisms and the intricacies of hormone treatment therapy at a level that very very few debaters in the country could match. Well done!

Lastly, I’ll say both of these debaters came a long way from when they debated in front of me (and I think Tim Alderete?) as sophomores in Octas of CPS 2014. In that debate, Jonas went for politics but dropped fiat solves the link. Oops! I can’t wait to see what both of them accomplish in their senior seasons!

*Meadows Octas – Lynbrook NS v La Cañada AZ*

This debate made me feel a lot like the Harker SP v Peninsula JL debate. Nisarg Shah from Lynbrook was being a little cheat-y and reading their Indonesia abortion plan that no one had really good answers to all topic. The generic oppression framework takes out most viable NC strategies, and the hyper-specificity and unpredictability of the plan does the rest of the work.

To be clear, I don’t blame teams who read these types of affs this season, but I don’t think they generally lead to great debates. But of course, this time was the exception. Alex Zhao had cut and was ready to go on an Indonesia agenda politics DA with an econ impact that so obviously outweighed the aff, the debate seemed over after the 1NC. But of course, debaters are constantly surprising me, and Nisarg’s 1AR had a grip of won’t pass and other cards to answer the DA (again, this is the Indonesia politics DA, people). The 2NR read even more extension cards and the two proceeded to debate about Indonesian presidential agendas, parliamentary coalitions, and terrorism policy for the rest of the debate. I’m pretty sure no one on the panel knew enough about Indonesia to fairly adjudicate this round, but big ups to these two for knowing a ton of the relevant lit and background facts enough to have this kind of debate.

*Greenhill Round 3 – Kingwood RG v Meadows LS*

Reece Grayson from Kingwood could run for President of LD Debate on the platform “Make Kritiks Make Sense Again” because his 1AC was one of the most clearly explained kritik arguments I’ve judged. Instead of just reading the over-played Smith or Vincent cards, a generic ROB argument and moving on, the aff actually went in-depth on its methodology and how debaters are to fulfill its burden structure. The highest layer argued that “everything is a performance” and that debate must first be “a safe space.” This was explained to me as a necessary condition for further debate, and that if either debater were to make debate “unsafe,” that is a reason to drop them. But it’s not sufficient; it’s merely a prior check. The second layer argued for a ROB about breaking down barriers for queer bodies. Though appealing to pre-fiat impacts, this was essentially a framework argument. The third layer was the plan and the discussion of its post-fiat impacts.

This all might not seem revolutionary, but there are so many debates where layers one and two are poorly explained, under-developed, or even just conflated. The same can be said for two and three. Debaters argue that not voting for a plan that has certain oppression-related advantages is itself oppressive or that employing alternative frameworks makes debate unsafe when neither of these claims are ever particularly well-explored or justified. So props to Reece.

Of course, Luis Sandoval just went for ASPEC and an agent PIC, but the debate was pretty cool before the 1NC!

*TOC Round 2 – Cy-Fair CM v New Trier LK*

Sometimes it’s good to diversify your strategies. Sometimes it’s good to kick the aff and go for a new out in the 1AR or 2AR. Sometimes it’s good to throw your opponent off a bit and try something new.

But sometimes it’s good to stick to your guns and do what you do best. In this debate, both sides refused to budge. Cameron McConway reads a high-probability-impacts-first suicide aff, and Louie Kollar reads an elections DA with every extinction-first card ever written. The 1AR and 2AR goes for (surprise!) high probability impacts come first, so suicide outweighs the disad. The 2NR goes for (surprise!) extinction impacts come first, so the disad outweighs suicide.

Would it have been more strategic for the 1NC to turn the case more effectively and establish offense on the suicide advantage? Probably. Would it have been more strategic for the 1AR to link or impact turn the DA and establish offense there? Probably. But would it have been what both debaters wanted the debate to be about? No! They just wanted to talk about their own stuff, and that’s awesome.

I watched Louie debate a few times this season, and I don’t think there was a single round where he didn’t run trutilitarianism and attempt to throw down on the impact calc. Love it. You do you.

*TOC Octas – Mission San Jose LS v Lake Highland NK*

I called the Overing 14 card. It had no warrant. I vote neg.

*Honorable Mentions*


  • to Debater 199 at Nationals for giving the speech order “starting on my opponent’s most fatal mistake”
  • to Hunter College AK for defending solipsism
  • to Servite PA for being a young man of God and running the Christianity framework in (I think) every round of Valley and the Sophomore RR
  • to La Reina EP and Talley PW for their Premier alum throwdown in CPS doubles
  • to Gig Harbor AB for being the thing on the street
  • to Neg for winning about 65% of their debates in front of me
  • to Greenhill VA for modestly claiming not to know how to do framework after beautifully going for Kant for the whole 2NR in front of me
  • to Mountain View VPa for clearing at Cal as a freshman and Brentwood RY for getting to semis of USC as a freshman
  • to Peninsula KK for being the first person I watched beat the IPV plan on T (it only took until Quarters of Cal in February!)
  • to Harrison RP for admirably responding to the Skep K and Zombies DA at the Penn RR

Thanks for a great season everyone! See you this summer or next fall..


Bob co-directs Premier Debate, coaches his alma mater Loyola High School and debates on the NDT/CEDA circuit for the USC Trojan Debate Squad. His students earned 32 TOC bids in his first two years coaching. At USC, Bob qualified to the NDT and cleared at CEDA. At Loyola, Bob earned 11 bids and was a TOC finalist.