The Student News Site of West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South

The Pirate's Eye

The Student News Site of West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South

The Pirate's Eye

The Student News Site of West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South

The Pirate's Eye

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First-ever gold bid

Debate Club treasurer Dharma Rajesh (‘25) and president Ashwin Telang (‘24) won a Gold Bid to the Tournament of Champions (TOC).

As the clock ticks by, South debaters are anticipating the end of the debate round when they’ll know if they won or lost. 

   By the time a debate round is over, competitors feel exhausted, having spent an hour giving four back-to-back speeches as they eagerly wait for the clock to tick by and hear the judge’s decision.

    After 10 hours of virtual calls during the first weekend of school, Debate Club president Ashwin Telang (‘24) and treasurer Dharma Rajesh (‘25) happily emerged from their last round having successfully qualified for the Tournament of Champions (TOC). 

     They along with other members of the Debate Club had been competing independently at the National Speech and Debate Season Opener, hosted by the University of Kentucky. 

     Telang and Rajesh had gone 5-1 in preliminary rounds, before advancing through three elimination rounds to reach the quarter-finals, finishing in sixth place out of 238 teams. 

     This performance earned them a gold bid- or a ticket to the TOC because they had met the bar to qualify by reaching a certain stage in the elimination rounds. In this case, it was the quarter finals at a specific type of national tournament called a bid tournament.

     Successfully qualifying is a big deal. “The Tournament of Champions is the highest stage for debate that you can possibly access in America,” said Gurneel Batra (‘26). “The winner each year is widely considered to be the best debate team across the nation.”

     When the news broke on the team’s Telegram group chat, almost every member of the team immediately reacted with caps and excited emojis that highlighted the excitement and jubilation of the extraordinary moment. 

     For Rajesh and Telang, it was more than just a special moment for their years of hard work.        

     “For me, I was really just excited!” said Rajesh. “I started debate in freshman year and since then, have put in many hours for this. It’s really rewarding to see the hard work payoff, specifically in an activity like debate where you are constantly pinned against accomplished competition.”

     Rajesh had earned a silver bid last year, but because she missed the gold bid stage, it meant she couldn’t automatically qualify to the TOC. At least two silver bids are needed to qualify.

     “The gold bid that we got is especially important because no one has ever gotten a gold bid in the history of South,” said Telang.

     “I think it sets the tone for what the season is going to be, especially with the sophomores that we have and the incoming freshmen,” said Rajesh. “I think they’re going to be inspired that our officers have done something well this season.”

     “It showed that we can get the same thing that Dhar and Ashwin got from qualifying to TOC, that if you put an effort, it doesn’t matter what school you’re from, you can make a difference in the debate community,” said Batra. 

     “While we might be a small school, you can still achieve things and you don’t need to be in one of the top schools to qualify for TOC.”

     In debate terminology, the phrase “small school” is used to describe school debate teams that lack the funding, and success compared to certain schools with that. 

     To other members of the team, the bid not only symbolized an accomplishment by their president and treasurer, but the potential the rest of the team has in store. 

     “In the past, our status as a school in debate has always been a small school,” said Shaurya Paul (‘26). “This year, this definitely has been a game changer for us because we haven’t reached that level [TOC] before.” 

     In addition to their own achievement, “now we want them [sophomores and freshmen] to get more success in a bid division,” said Telang.

     “By what South Debate achieved this year, I’m excited to see how our team could win similar bids, ” said Rajesh.

     To reach that level will require further effort and dedication, and the team is now looking toward it with higher confidence. 

     “It’s a lot of work,” Telang said, “but it pays off.”

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