Fourteen-year-old Anna Baghdassarian feels butterflies in her stomach before every debate tournament, but she believes if you project a sense of confidence, that composure becomes genuine and can be your greatest tool. On Saturday, December 7, Anna, an eighth-grader from The Rumson Country Day School, ended up celebrating a number of successes with her debate teammates after competing in the Jersey Shore Debate League Tournament hosted by Barkalow Middle School in Freehold. Among many accolades, Anna outscored every debater at the tournament in order to secure the Golden Gavel, a highly sought after award given to the debater who has the most cumulative points out of all participants at the tournament.
"I'm proud of myself and my teammates," said Anna. "Each debate round we are challenged to step out of our comfort zones. It gets a little bit easier as we go but we always have to work hard to sharpen our skills for the next time."
In addition to receiving the Golden Gavel, Anna and seventh-grade partner Emerson Fry were crowned Best Threesome, despite their third teammate being absent. And they were not the only Gator Debaters to earn top honors. Together, the RCDS debate team was named the school team with the highest percentage of wins and most number of wins. Seventh-graders Peter Bird, Keegan O'Conner, Serena Schwadron were awarded trophies for Second-Best Threesome, while Keegan O'Conner earned RCDS's Top Speaker Award.
"I adore the sense of commitment the students exhibit," said RCDS debate coach Ann Murdock. "They choose to spend their free time researching and preparing for the tournament and then sacrifice a full Saturday to compete."
According to Mrs. Murdock, the ability to think on your feet and learn from your mistakes are critical skills to apply for a successful debate. She described sixth-graders Molly Walker, Luke Gmelich and Sophie Bilanin as champions due to their impressive show of teamwork, and resiliency in the face of adversity.
"Losing a round at a tournament is inevitable for all participants, and those are the moments that most impress me. Their ability to lose graciously, bounce back, and apply what they learn from criticism in order to prevail -- that is resilience."
Anna agrees. She attributes her current success to the constructive criticism she's received and the mistakes she's made in the past. During her previous two years as a Gator Debater, Anna recalls learning the most from these experiences and hopes to continue improving with each tournament to come. She and her teammates look forward to competing in the next Jersey Shore Debate League Tournament held at Knollwood School in Fair Haven on Saturday, February 22nd.
- Awards & Accolades