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‘A year-long process of refining our arguments’

Nevada Union High School debate partners achieve best ever record for their school in prestigious tournament

Jackson Witt, left, and Evelyn Grandfield achieved the best record at this year’s Tournament of Champions, a prestigious national debate championship, of any prior Nevada Union High School team to participate.
Submitted to The Union

Evelyn Grandfield, who graduated as valedictorian earlier this month, and Jackson Witt, an incoming senior, earlier this year became the fourth ever team from Nevada Union High School to qualify for the Tournament of Champions, a prestigious national debate tournament held each April.

They went on to achieve the best record of any Nevada Union team to have competed in the tournament so far, with four wins and three losses.

According to Grandfield, the best record previous Nevada Union teams had achieved at the tournament was three-to-four.

They were just one win shy of the five-to-two record needed to advance into the elimination round portion of the tournament.

“The team we ended up losing to ended up making it to semi-finals, so we felt a little bit better about that loss,” said Witt.

Witt credited parent support in addition to the team’s coaches, Stephen Goldberg and Dan Stanfield, with allowing him and Grandfield to reach the point that they did this season. He said his and Grandfield’s extensive research and practice led to “a culmination of a year-long process of refining our arguments.”

Grandfield also said the team’s “really amazing coaches,” in addition to collaboration throughout the year with the other successful debaters in teams also coached by Goldberg, played into achieving this record at the tournament.

“I think … Jackson and I were very cohesive,” said Grandfield on another factor contributing to their successful season. “We’ve been friends since we were four, and we had done debate together in middle school, we had played water polo together, so it was really helpful being able to work with him.”

According to Goldberg, the pair’s performance at this year’s Tournament of Champions placed them within the top 40 to 50 teams in the nation.

Goldberg said it was a year-long process and a great deal of work which led up to this team’s tournament success throughout their season, beginning with receiving each year’s topic the previous year and starting work on it around May.

“And they did work all year,” he said. “They both went to summer debate camps, and then they started out in early tournaments in the year, and just have been debating all year in tournaments.”

Grandfield emphasized the importance of debate camps, such as the summer day camp put on by the Sacramento Urban Debate League, in continuing to foster student interest in debate.

“It’s really, really important for us to get people into it so we can continue the debate program,” said Grandfield.


Preparation for the upcoming season is already underway, according to Goldberg, and the next topic which has been chosen for high school policy debaters nationwide is water policy.

During the academic year, which recently ended, the assigned topic was criminal justice reform.

“We already have a meeting scheduled to talk about possible things we’re going to do next year, just initial thoughts about arguments we might have for next year, so we’re already looking forward to that,” said Goldberg.

Witt said that, although having a new partner next year may add some difficulty, he is looking toward working to achieve similar success next year.

“We’re going to work hard and try to do it again,” said Witt.

Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at vpenate@theunion.com

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