Pinecrest Wins Elite Honor: Debate Team Takes National Award
The Pinecrest debate team made both school and state history this week when a pair of students placed first in the nation at the Harvard University National Debate Tournament in Cambridge.
Pinecrest took top honors from a field of 289 teams representing schools across the nation. Juniors Elaine Kearney and Alex Snyder were the winning pair, with four of five judges awarding them the first place victory. Pinecrest students Nick Temple and Sam Lewis earned sixth place, with students Connor Hees and Sebastian Ix finishing in the top 64.
Although it was the first time the team had won it all at Harvard, coach Libby Adams Carter said she was "not incredibly surprised" that the team performed so well.
"I know the quality of these kids, and knew they had the ability to win," she said through tears. "I get emotional talking about it, because of all the hard work they put into this. They received their topic about four weeks ago and have been working nonstop, doing research and really getting familiar with the issues.
"They needed to know the topic in any capacity, be it nuclear proliferation, economics or anything else. The kids have to be extremely well-versed on the subject."
The teams debated the same topic throughout the competition: "On balance, the rise of China is beneficial to the interests of the United States." A coin toss determined which school would make the affirmative or negative argument, with Pinecrest taking the beneficial position. They defeated the team from Milburn High School in New Jersey for the win.
All 289 teams competed in six preliminary rounds, leaving 64 teams to move into elimination competition. Seven elimination rounds were held before a winner was determined.
"It was very close at the end, and we didn't know until the last second whether or not we would win," said Kearney. "It was an amazing experience, very suspenseful, and we were so happy to win."
The victory also distinguished Pinecrest as the state's only winner of three national championships. In addition to Harvard, the team won first place at the Catholic Forensic League's National Public Forum in 2012 and also earned first place in the National Forensic League Champion-ship in 2008.
"This gives the team three national titles," Carter said. "Myers Park High School in Charlotte has two, and they have been debating since the 1930s. Most high schools in the country never achieve a national title."
The Pinecrest debate team was formed in 2003.
School officials shared their pride at the team's achievement.
"We knew the debate team was good, but this is just an amazing accomplishment," said Charlene Vermeulen, assistant principal fellow at Pinecrest. "They were already recognized as being in the top 5 percent of all debate teams across the nation, but this is the true feather in Pinecrest's cap. We are so very proud of them."
"They are wonderful students," she said. "It was a tremendous weekend, and they came through when it really mattered. As a coach, I couldn't ask for more."
The team will travel to Kentucky in April, where members will compete in the national championships. In June, Pinecrest will be one of two teams to represent the state at the National Forensic League debate competition in Birmingham, Ala.
Contact John Lentz at (910) 693-2507 or jlentz@thepilot. com.
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