Phoenix Debate Argues Their Way to Nationals

Three teams of two from Rock Ridge made their way to Nationals, scoring in the top 100.


Aarohi Motwani

After weeks of hard work, members of the Rock Ridge debate team qualified for Nationals, placing in the top 100 teams. Sophomore Veer Sidhu worked for the most time on his research. “You need to know a lot about the topic before you can write your case,” Sidhu said.

Divya Iyer and Abby Welch

On May 28 and 29, three Phoenix debate teams went to Nationals, scoring in the top 100 out of 300 schools from around the country. They were able to debate in the first 5 rounds of nationals. To qualify, the teams competed in a tournament consisting of 5 rounds. The team placed second at the Metro Finals competition, a debate competition against schools in Maryland, Virginia, and D.C.

Each team had two students: juniors Srikar Bangaru and Anirudh Rao in the first team, sophomores Jagadeepram Maddipatla and Veer Sidhu in the second, and juniors Avinash Byakod and Prajwal Rao in the third. They went to Nationals as a part of the Public Forum, led by team captain sophomore Arnav Gupta. “There is a speaker 1 and a speaker 2, and you debate on current issues, such as a Russian invasion of Ukraine, using facts, statistics, and other elements,” Anirudh Rao said. The topic for this Public Forum debate was whether or not the UN should adopt a standing army. 

Phoenix’s Persuasive Peers

Junior Srikar Bangaru: Bangaru and his debate partner, Anirudh Rao, have been debating together for 3 years. “We work really well together.” Bangaru said. Initially, Bangaru joined debate freshman year because his friends joined it, but “after it started getting fun,” he got more serious with debate. “I started meeting a lot of new people, I stuck to it,” Bangaru said. To prepare for nationals, Bangaru prepared for weeks. “A lot of long hours and nights [were] put into preparing for this tournament.” Bangaru said.

According to members, Rock Ridge debate’s team is a lot more competitive than other teams in LCPS. “A lot of teams from other schools are not as competitive as us, and they don’t have the same success rate as us, which is why being here fosters that competitive nature and makes everyone on the team better.” Bangaru said.

Junior Anirudh Rao: Rao joined debate because he is passionate in public speaking and arguing. “Debate felt like a natural extension of [public speaking and arguing]. The idea of debating against other people has always interested me,” Rao said. “I am very competitive [in debate]. I put a lot of work, time, and effort in preparing for debates, but I think that that’s a general trend across the debate team right now. Everyone wants to win, but we also love to help each other.” 

Rao wants to take the skills he’s learned from debate into college and future careers.  “The research skills, the public speaking skills, the argumentation skills that I’ve learned through debate are definitely something that I’m going to take forward in my life,” Rao said. 

Sophomore Arnav Gupta: Gupta has been on debate for 2 years, and has served as team captain this year. As captain, his favorite part of being on debate is watching his team members and himself grow. “It’s the pleasure of passing on the knowledge that my former captain gave to me, and the ability to constantly improve and do better,” Gupta said. 

Gupta also thinks that his debate skills will help him later in life. “You get better at research, making arguments, public speaking, and those are skills that anyone can benefit from in the future, regardless of your profession,” Gupta said.

Sophomore Veer Sidhu: Sidhu’s favorite part of debate is getting to compete with friends. “I do an event with a partner, [sophomore] Jagadeepram Maddipatla, so I only get to debate with one friend, but the team is built in a way that you can talk with everyone, share ideas, make cases with each other, etc., and that’s what I really like about it,” Sidhu said. 

Since Maddipatla is Speaker 1, and Sidhu is Speaker 2, and they have been debating together since their freshman year, they work well together. “We are able to understand each other very well,” Sidhu said. “When he says something in a round, I am able to bring it up again, and vice versa.” 

Sidhu would like to continue debate throughout his high school career and possibly during college. Debate has not only helped Sidhu meet great people, but it has also helped him gain confidence in public speaking. “In middle school, I was not a confident speaker at all,” Sidhu said. “ I hated giving presentations. Now [because of debate], I can speak pretty confidently and I know how to construct an argument well.”