NU debate team takes top honors |

NU debate team takes top honors

Teddy Hill-Weld and Joe Fenner at the Robert Garcia Memorial Invitational Debate Tournament.
Submitted by Judith Hill-Weld |

The Nevada Union High School debate team kicked off this year’s season with two wins in novice and varsity competitions against high school students from across the state.

“The Nevada Union debate team has a long history of winning and being successful at tournaments,” assistant debate coach Judith Hill-Weld said. “First place is always a challenge to get. But I think that we’re seeing an unusual level of success, especially at the novice level.”

Last weekend, NU freshmen Jesse Lawrence-Weilmann and Sierra Raskie-Jeska won the novice policy division at the Jon Schamber Invitational, which was hosted at University of the Pacific. The tournament honors a former professor and UOP debater, and draws novice and varsity debaters from across the state.

“Novices can be any grade but it is their first year debating in competition,” Hill-Weld said. “These two have a special edge because they participated in our middle school program at Seven Hills. So they’ve been doing a wonderful job.”

In late September, the NU Debate Team attended the Jack Howe Memorial tournament at California State University, Long Beach. Lawrence-Weilmann and Raskie-Jeska also made it to the novice semi-finals and Lawrence-Weilmann took second place in novice speaker awards.

“We look for competitions that offer quality judging and good competition,” Hill-Weld said. “Where the judges are knowledgeable and give useful feedback and where the competition is where the students are going to be challenged.”

Raskie-Jeska says that the middle school debate program was beneficial to her early success as a member of the NU debate team.

“It was really exciting, I feel like we improved a lot so it was really nice,” Raskie-Jeska said. “My dad debated in high school so he’s always encouraged me to join, and I enjoy public speaking so this is a really great program for me.”

NU juniors Joe Fenner and Teddy Hill-Weld took top honors at the Robert Garcia Memorial Invitational at Saint Francis High School in Mountain View in mid-September. The Garcia Memorial Invitational, a national circuit debate tournament, attracts varsity policy debate teams from across California.

“Our students do policy debate, which is probably the most comprehensive and rigorous debate there is, and it is a partner activity,” Judith Hill-Weld said. “Policy debate nationally functions on one topic all year-long. So by the time they are done with a season they have the equivalent knowledge of a master’s degree on that topic. This year is about exploration and development of the ocean. So they know a lot about that topic.”

Fenner and Terry Hill-Weld survived an intense two-day 16-hour competition at St. Francis to emerge as first place winners.

Both students also ranked individually among the top 10 individual speakers at the event.

“It doesn’t get any better than earning first place at two of our first three events,” volunteer coach Stephen Goldberg said.

Judith Hill-Weld’s son, Terry, said that winning the tournament was just confirmation of all the hard work they put into preparing for the debate.

“It was pretty cool. We put a lot of time and effort and research to be able to answer other people’s arguments,” Terry Hill-Weld said. “It was cool to see the diversity of arguments that people are covering on this topic. So finally when we won the tournament, it felt really, really good.”

According to Judith Hill-Weld, the NU Debate team succeeds at the local and national levels despite a lack of ongoing funding. Just last year, two of NU’s varsity debate teams, Fenner and Kris Colen, and Colby Scanlon and Teddy Hill-Weld advanced to the elimination bracket in the NCFL Grand National Tournament in Chicago. Colen and Hill-Weld earned a bid to the National Tournament of Champions, the most prestigious championship for high school debaters.

“Nevada Union’s team is very unique because we are probably one of a handful, or fewer, public rural high schools competing on the national level at the quality that we are,” Judith Hill-Weld said. “We’re doing something that takes a huge amount of time, and doing it at a quality level that’s really unheard of for a rural public high school, and I think Nevada Union should be very proud of that.”

For more information about NU Debate, visit

To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email or call 530-477-4236.

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