OH debate team has grown into a county powerhouse

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The Olympic Heights debate team as it readies for a virtual competition on Saturday, Nov. 14.

Since it is not an athletic sport, the academic competition of debate is often overlooked by the student body in favor of the flashier football or basketball teams, but make no mistake, the Olympic Heights debate team is an absolute juggernaut, even if all the debate competitions are  being held virtually due to Covid-19 restrictions.

At this past Saturday’s competition, the Mighty Lions debate team had thirteen members place in 10 ten events, with Rozalia Vajda placing first in the Congressional Debate event and Nathifa Nahar placing second in the oral Interpretation event.

In the previous competition on Oct. 24, the team had 16 out of 29 participants place in the top six or higher in their respective events, including two first place winners in the Public Forum event and in the Lincoln-Douglas event. 

In overall public forum debate team points, OH led the competition with 14. The next closest team was Park Vista with four points. In overall competition points, OH placed second with 42 team points, behind only Dreyfoos School of the Arts, who had 53. 

Oh debate team coach Mr. Zachary Goldstein, better known as Mr. G., is loved and respected by his team. Mr. G. is not your traditional tough coach, though. He pushes his team to their limits but also believes in positive reinforcement, and he truly cares about everyone he works with. 

Mr. G. understands when his team is overwhelmed or stressed, and the team shows their appreciation for his leniency by winning, and winning a lot, in competition. 

The OH debate program is relatively new, and Mr. G. has built it into an elite program that other schools in the Palm Beach County Forensic League should fear. In just over a year, Mr. G. has turned his team from young freshmen with stage fright into some of the most powerful speakers and writers in Palm Beach County. 

“When I started the program five years ago, [the team] had three kids on it,” Mr. G. told The Torch. “For the next few years, we should go to every tournament and place at one or two at best.”

As for the experience from the team’s point of view, Jesse Bloom, a first-year team member who has placed in all three competitions this year, says, “I think the way we prepare as a team is very advantageous due to the diversity among competitors in different types of competition that bring different perspectives to the table and help us to be at our best.” 

Mason Silverstein, another novice team member, highlights his relationship with Mr. G. saying, “He’s one of the best teachers I’ve ever had.” The bond between everyone on the team is tight, with everyone pushing each other to be better by giving feedback and comments in mock sessions during class. “If debate has taught me anything, it’s to always ‘Keep it G,’” says Sami Levick, alluding to Mr. G’s infamous catchphrase. 

As the team continues to dominate, they feel It’s time they finally get the respect they deserve as one of the most powerful competitive activities at OH. This team is the epitome of what it truly means to be a Mighty Lion.

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