Barlow vs. Barlow at debate final

Debate Team coach Randall Smith stands with his first- and second-place teams at the debate final at Joel Barlow High School. In back from left are Mr. Smith, Brendan Coppinger and Nicolò Marzaro. In front are Cormac Cummiskey and Cooper D’Agostino.

Debate Team coach Randall Smith stands with his first- and second-place teams at the debate final at Joel Barlow High School. In back from left are Mr. Smith, Brendan Coppinger and Nicolò Marzaro. In front are Cormac Cummiskey and Cooper D’Agostino.

The question of “fracking” has divided our nation just as surely as it splits the earth. And this past Saturday, it also threatened to open a fissure within Barlow as two pairs of seniors from the Joel Barlow High School Debate Team faced each other in the final round to determine who would be in the first-place team in varsity debate.
Almost 200 students from 19 public, private, and parochial schools assembled at Barlow to compete.
The home team earned the top honors in a rematch between Cooper D’Agostino, Cormac Cummiskey, Brendan Coppinger, and Nicolò Marzaro. This was the second-ever Barlow versus Barlow final, replicating the contest from this past October.
The four blazed through their preliminary rounds as never before, with Cormac and Cooper both earning perfect scores of 30 against Darien in the third round in a performance described as “flawless” on the ballot.
For their part, Nicolò and Brendan stayed consistent and steady, crafting and refining their plans for both affirmative and negative in anticipation of tougher competition in the following round. Nicolò, fresh from his decisive victory last month at Loomis Chaffee that won him an upcoming trip to the World Finals in Durban, South Africa, was consistently good enough this time to earn the second-place varsity speaker award.
The final itself was a clash of titans, seeing the seniors at the top of their game. Brendan opened up on the affirmative, saying fracking should be decided on the local level, using an avalanche of historical precedents from Texas and statistics proving the failure of the EPA to regulate waste from coal and nuclear energy. He also wove in occasional small bits of the dry humor that are his trademark.
In cross-examination, he was unflappable as Cormac and Cooper used every possible ploy to get some sort of damaging concession, but none was forthcoming.
Cormac then set up the negative position in the following speech. His speech was immaculate debate, cleverly dodging the problems of defending the EPA by arguing the question of fracking would be better handled at the state level, since states have the resources to study and enforce regulations and are less susceptible to corruption by business interests than local governments. He even found time to land jabs at every part of the affirmative case.
Hearty applause followed each speech as the debate progressed, displaying the teams at the peak of their powers. It ended with the four embracing one another as friends. And it seems that judges were equally divided, handing a narrow 3-2 decision in favor of Cooper and Cormac.
This intra-school final was made possible by a pair of varsity juniors, Tommy Cocco and Daanish Siddiqi, who pulled off a stunning third-round upset win against the tournament’s top scoring pair, a group from New Canaan. By going undefeated for the second time, Daanish and Tommy have earned an invitation to the state finals tournament at the end of next month.
Not far behind were varsity sophomores Harrison von Dwingelo and Hunter Lightman, who had a high-scoring 2-1 result for the day.
Other varsity juniors saw some success. Carl Goldstein got high praise from a judge in round three for impassioned delivery, earning a career-high speaker score. He and his partner, Aidan Pryor, pulled out a win against Staples in that round.
Junior Nicole Peterson and sophomore Sam Aldershof also triumphed in round three against Warde, with Nicole’s scores rising.
Juniors Brendan O’Connor, David Freeman, and Christoph Dow along with sophomore Brooke Curto all picked up wins against Hartford. Seniors Maurizio Viselli and Christian Miljkovic and juniors Hana Malik and Rachel Losacco posted solid varsity speaker scores all day, working hard against difficult opponents.
A large group of first-time sophomore novices also did well. First-time sophomore Keeghan Lucas along with sophomore Michael Lin went undefeated, landing in fifth place. Another pair of sophomores, Shawn Burger and her partner, another first-timer, Valerie Boczar, went 2-1, with a remarkably high 154 points, ahead of most of the undefeated teams. Sophomore Nathan Sobel helped his partner, sophomore Ally Watters, get the hang of competition.
The team has three tournaments in March, including the state championship tournament in Wilton, where Barlow will defend its state title for the third year running.

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