Speech and Debate Team Makes Big Strides in First Season

Left to right: Mitch Wu, Ethan Panarey, Shawn Tang, and Clara Chen with coach Peter after a successful competition at William Tennent High School in November.

The Speech and Debate Team, led by History Teacher Peter Paik, completed their first year with great success. 

18 students make up the 2023-24 team, with 12 debaters and 6 participants in speech events. The team competes in four leagues: National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA), Pennsylvania High School Speech League (PHSSL), Southeast Pennsylvania Debate League (SPDL), and Philadelphia Catholic Forensic League (PCFL). 

Coming from many different backgrounds, students develop critical thinking and public speaking skills through Speech and Debate. Students like Dallan Reimels ’25 have cultivated these skills throughout the season. “The Speech and Debate team allowed me to learn new skills such as public speaking and argumentation. I have really enjoyed getting to know people across the S&D community and have even made lasting friendships with debaters from other schools,” he reflected. 

Kavya Gounder ’26 had a similar experience on the team. “This isn’t just a team; we’re a family,” she remarked. “From team meetings and the many practices to van rides and tournaments, I’ve truly had an exciting and rewarding experience on the team this year. During my first-ever tournament in September, I remember feeling so nervous to deliver simple lines, but with practice and tournaments every week, I grew immensely as a speaker.” She ended the season placing first in Informative Speaking during the SPDL playoffs in March. 

Speech and Debate are separate events. The team participates in Lincoln-Douglas debate, where students compete one-on-one against a student from another school. For speech, GS students compete in two events: Declamation, where a student delivers a well-known speech, and Informative Speaking, where a student delivers an original speech teaching people about a topic of their choice.

“Peter is the heart of the speech and debate team, and I am so fortunate to be his student,” shared Kavya. “His commitment, dedication, and coaching are the reason we are an amazing team. He teaches us skills to succeed during tournaments and provides us with detailed feedback after each practice round.”

Before starting the team at GS, Peter coached speech and debate in Ohio for over 20 years. He coached a national champion debate team in 2010, and he was inducted into the Ohio Speech and Debate Association Coaches Hall of Fame in 2020. “Creating a positive team culture is important,” explained Peter.  “We celebrate everyone’s success as though it’s our own. Though the activity can seem to be a very individual endeavor, we practice, compete, and grow together as a team.” 

“My proudest moment this year was qualifying for nationals, after beating very experienced debaters. Hearing my name called was such an amazing experience that I will never forget.” said Dallan. “I would not be able to accomplish any of this without Peter’s dedication and the support of GS administrators.”

Read below some of the highlights of their year! 

Pennsbury Falcon Invitational: On February 2 and 3, Avery Otoo ’27 won 6th place in Declamation. Dallan Reimels ’25 advanced to the quarterfinals. 

Southeast Pennsylvania Debate League Playoffs hosted by William Tennent: On February 7, many students placed with high scores in their most successful tournament of the year. 

  • In Declamation, Avery Otoo ’27 won 1st place and Lois L’Oiseau ’26 won 4th place.
  • In Informative Speaking, Kavya Gounder ’26 won 1st place. 
  • In the JV Lincoln-Douglas debate, Clara Chen ’26 advanced to the semifinals, and Annie Chen ’24 made it to quarterfinals. 
  • In Varsity Lincoln-Douglas debate, Ethan Panarey ‘27 and Mitch Wu ‘26 advanced to quarterfinals, Dallan Reimels ‘25 made it to the semifinals, and LJ Faustin ‘27 was a co-champion. 
  • Other team members who also competed at the SPDL tournament were Khalilullah Saidu ’26 and Zoe Ahagotu ’27.  
  • As a team, GS placed 3rd in the overall sweepstakes, a remarkable result in their first year of competition. 

University of Pennsylvania Tournament: Students stayed competitive in the face of chal

lenge over the weekend of February 9.

  • In Declamation, Avery Otoo ’27 made it to the semifinals, and Lois L’Oiseau ’26 reached the quarterfinals. 
  • In the Lincoln-Douglas debate, LJ Faustin ’27 made it to the quarterfinals, and Dallan Reimels ’25 reached the octa-finals.  

Philadelphia Catholic Forensic League (PCFL) Varsity Finals/District Tournament: On Saturday, March 2, three team members qualified to compete at the National Catholic Forensic League (NCFL) national tournament in Chicago in May. 

  • Lois L’Oiseau ’26 and Avery Otoo ’27 both qualified in Declamation.
  • Dallan Reimels ’25 qualified in Lincoln-Douglas debate.

PA State Tournament: On March 15-16, four students competed at Bloomsburg University. Dallan Reimels ’25 and LJ Faustin ’27 competed in Lincoln-Douglas, and Mitch Wu ’26 and Jillian Yao ’26 competed in Parliamentary Debate.

  • LJ Faustin ’27 placed top 8 in the state in Lincoln-Douglas debate. During preliminary rounds, she defeated the debater who went on to become the state champion. LJ was the only competitor to give the champion a loss. 

Lois L’Oiseau ’26, Avery Otoo ’27, and Dallan Reimels ’25 will compete at the National Catholic Forensic League (NCFL) national tournament in Chicago in May.

Congratulations to the Speech and Debate team on an exciting season and good luck to our qualifiers!


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