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Midvale Journal

Hillcrest’s debate team makes its marks virtually at state

Jun 07, 2021 12:41PM ● By Julie Slama

Sisters Sara and Sofia Moeinvaziri hold up their debate medals they won at the Copper Classic Invitational, which was virtual. (Photo courtesy of Marianoosh Ghodrat)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Hillcrest High School sophomore Sofia Moeinvaziri realizes she had a slight advantage over some of the other competitors in the Utah High School Activities Association’s state high school debate tournament.

That’s because she partnered with her sister, Sara, and they were able to research and prepare their arguments in public forum together, not having to worry about COVID-19 restrictions or syncing their schedules. When it came time for virtual competitions, they could sit next to each other at their dining room table, not having to look at one another over Zoom on a screen.

That may have worked to their advantage as they won the five preliminary rounds at the virtual state tournament.  

“We were 5-0, but we lost in the quarterfinals to a Bonneville team, which eventually won,” Moeinvaziri said. “They had four teams, three of them in the quarterfinals and then us. They’re a pretty good team.”

So is the sister team as they placed third at the Hunter Haunting tournament in October; were finalists in the Copper Classic in January; and placed second at region.

Although both girls have debated before, this was the first year they’ve teamed up.

“I told her ‘I’d write the case, you get evidence’ and I’d throw her into it. But I wasn’t prepared myself.  There were different debaters and we learned from the feedback from our judges to make sure our evidence flowed,” she said, adding that she also made sure the technology worked.

The duo helped to lead Hillcrest’s team, which was rebuilding with about 10 members. 

“Many of our usual debaters didn’t want to compete or deal with online tournaments,” she said. “Our team is very young. The more we participated, the more opportunities we had to hit better opponents and have better experiences. It was easier for my sister and I to be able to talk and compete; we just hit mute while others had to deal with technology. And in between rounds, we could relax in our home.”

The team also was coached by first-year adviser Ron Hill, who is new to debate, said sophomore Michael Chen, who was a quarterfinalist at state in Lincoln-Douglas debate.

“There were 47 entries and I hit someone from prelims who I lost to and lost again in the quarterfinals,” he said. “That debater from Farmington is really good, but it was fun.”

Fun, but Chen prefers to debate in-person.

“It’s definitely a different experience virtually. Part of the tournament in real life is a social event, where we have fun and hang out. Being virtual and isolated in your home isn’t the same and if you have a bad connection, you can’t hear or understand what they’re saying, then you need to figure it out. Sometimes when a computer isn’t working, it ends up as a forfeit and that’s kind of unfair. It can be a bad situation for everyone. Luckily, it didn’t happen too often,” he said.

Earlier in the season, Chen teamed up with junior Ryan Chen (no relation) as a policy team where they won the Westlake Invitational in October, but Michael Chen preferred the individual aspect of Lincoln-Douglas.

“This year with virtual competitions, being part of a team is more difficult,” he said.

Chen said that the team did well, with strong leadership from seniors Rush Meen and Anna Hsu, who mentored new debaters. Hillcrest had three other policy teams to round out the team.

“It’s hard to recruit members when it’s all virtual, so I hope next year, it will be in person to offer the experience of debate and speech to everyone,” he said. “For those who want to compete on the national circuit, virtual competitions do make it easier.”