Dynamic debate duo places third at state


It took a lot to get to state: nine months of prep, 20 hours a week of research and too many late nights. In the end, sophomore Andrew Nguyen and senior Ali Rizvi placed third in the UIL 6A state tournament for policy debate.

“{Winning third in state} is a great accomplishment,” debate teacher and coach Cameron Vaziri said. “It’s something we haven’t done before at UIL. We’d fallen out of the picture, but last year and this year has put us on the map.”

Along with the months of preparation, pep talks helped both boys before the competition.

“The day before and the day of when we were actually going to Austin, I said, ‘We are winning state’ and I said that over and over again,” Rizvi, the debate president, said. “That’s the deal that Andrew and I made. I think that really illustrated our success.”

In the final round of the competition, the boys went up against Hendrickson High School and lost, getting third overall. Nevertheless, they surpassed James E. Taylor High School which, according to Rizvi, gets very far in national tournaments.

“When I found out that we placed third, I was disappointed because I knew we just lost against Hendrickson, but on the ride back I was like, ‘{That’s} pretty good,’” Nguyen said.

Although they’ve worked together throughout most of the year, Nguyen and Rizvi don’t always see eye to eye, but manage to use their differing points of view to their advantage.

“I think it’s really important that we do come up with a lot of different arguments because me and Ali don’t work the same,” Nguyen said. “Sometimes I disagree with a lot of his strategic choices.”

Encouraged by his cousin, Rizvi started debate his sophomore year, skipped the novice level and went directly to varsity. Even though his peers don’t seem to understand the depth of the arguments debaters make, Rizvi continues to enjoy debate and everything that comes with it.

“I like expressing arguments,” Rizvi said. “{Debate is} just a really awesome sport, so much so that I’m probably going to do it again in college. It’s hard to explain because the debate isn’t over abstract concepts. We bring up evidence over real life events that are happening. We contextualize real philosophies and explain why this avenue of thinking is wrong because it endorses these ideologies It’s a very big, complex game that you’re playing. I guess people just kind of blow that off and say, ‘Oh, it’s just a debate.’”

Nguyen was drawn to debate his eighth grade year when his Gifted and Talented (GT) English teacher made the class debate over a chosen topic.

“I remember it was me against this other guy, four speeches, and we were debating over whether human cloning was ethical or not,” Nguyen said. “I probably spent 10 hours on that project because I really wanted to win and when we were supposed to debate, I got up there and demolished him. The class voted 27-0 in favor of me and I was like, ‘{This} feels pretty good.’”

According to the boys, debate teaches students a multitude of skills. Anything from essay writing to how to store more information in your short-term memory. Not only that, but debate prepares you for life in the real world.

“Debate {also} teaches you to work with other people,” Nguyen said. “In our form of debate, you get stuck with one partner for most of the year so even if you don’t like these other people you have to learn to work with them and all their weaknesses. You could pursue literally any career and debate would give you an advantage. I think that even if you’re going to be a McDonald’s cashier, you’ve still got those communication skills.”