Debate team comes out on top for second year in a row


Mr. Fine

The debate team cheering for Mr. Fine as he won the W.E. Sanders Award.

By Maryann Ress, Assistant Editor

When Ariana Collazo heard her name called as the national champion at the Urban Debate League Championship in Washington D.C., she could not believe it. She won the same title last year, becoming the first two-time national champion in the history of the tournament.

“I didn’t know if I would be able to pull off winning the tournament twice, and I felt like I had to prove myself because everyone was expecting me to. I was stunned when they announced I won,” Collazo, Div. 976, said.

The theme for this season was immigration, and Collazo’s arguments surrounded the treatment of people of color in America.

“Talking about the violence women of color immigrants face has affected me the most because I feel like it directly affects a lot of my family and people who look like me,” Collazo said.

Collazo said arguing for representation is what kept her motivated at competitions.

“I have to remember that I am doing all of this for a reason greater than success: representation,” Collazo said. “In debate, people of color have taken on a new style of argumentation called ‘kritikal debate.’ This was created in order to give students who attended inner-city high schools a chance to be as competitive as students who attended suburban schools.”

“Kritikal debate” uses poetry, music and narratives to formulate an argument, according to Collazo. Despite disagreements within the debate community over kritikal debate, Collazo continues to use the style because of the impact it has on her.

“There have been multiple times this year where I was voted down in a debate simply because the judge or judges did not agree with what I was doing and didn’t see the educational value in kritikal debate,” Collazo said. “With all that being said, what always kept me motivated is to know that other girls of color in debate will see what I am doing and think to themselves, ‘I can do that too.’”

Both Collazo and Aysia Grey, Div. 059, competed at Harvard University in February, which was the first time a Lane team has ever competed there.

When the tournament ended, Collazo and Grey were quarterfinalists. Collazo was awarded the second place Top Speaker Award. Both debaters qualified for spots at the Tournament of Champions.

The Tournament of Champions is the American National Debate Championship held at the University of Kentucky in the spring. This tournament is the hardest conference to qualify for, according to Mr. Fine, the debate team’s head coach.

The team went on to win the Urban Debate League National Qualifier, where they secured a spot representing Chicago in the Urban Debate League Championship. The tournament is held at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

They won the championship last year and this year and became the first team to win the tournament more than once.

Dimarvin Puerto, Div. 060, said Fine is one of the reasons for the success that the debate team had this season.

“There can never be a replacement for Mr. Fine,” Puerto said. “He is what makes the debate team a family. He is the most supportive and caring teacher that I have ever had at Lane.”

Fine said his role as a coach has helped motivate his debaters.

“The reason that my team is successful, and I’m successful as a coach, is because I genuinely am passionate about teaching and coaching and helping young people,” Fine said.

Fine said he does not like to focus on the wins. Instead, he is proud of the support that his debaters gave one another throughout the tournament.

“When I first started coaching, a lot of the kids had this idea that we needed to get to the Tournament of Champions. I do not like this philosophy,” Fine said. “It is not about the Tournament of Champions. It is about giving your 100% and becoming really smart at something you really care about or are good at.”

For Fine, the highlight of this debate season was the city championships.

“We had our Lane Tech squad all wearing our Lane Tech hoodies and sitting together, and celebrating each other,” Fine said.

That night, Fine was awarded the W.E. Sanders Award for his exemplary dedication, patience, leadership, character, selflessness and love of teaching and debate.

“My debaters, parents and alumni nominated me, and I won that award,” Fine said. “It was the first award of the night and when they announced my name I was in tears.”

Oscar Zetino, Div. 079, is grateful for how the debate team has helped him grow personally.

“On a personal level, this team is a family, and we operate just like one. We love and support each other always, and it’s an amazing and positive environment to work in,” Zetino said.

Collazo said that she is sad that she will have to leave the debate team in about a month.

“I have made a few very close friends on the debate team, and I am grateful,” Collazo said. “The debate team has always been there to support me, regardless of if I won tournaments or not. I am so happy I had the opportunity to be a part of the debate team during my time in high school.”

Puerto hopes that he and the team can pass down to novice debaters that winning is not everything.

“A winner means supporting everyone around them and doesn’t care about proving who is better,” Puerto said. “The team is equal and proud of one another no matter what. Also, we want to teach what [makes] a good family member. We are a family that cheers for one another’s success.”