Fremd Debate gains momentous victories both on and off the podium


Samuel Kang and Grace Lee

Fremd Congressional Debate this November has made a significant breakthrough at one of the largest national tournaments in the country, the Glenbrooks Speech & Debate Tournament. 

The tournament, considered as one of the most prestigious in the nation, is broken down into three stages: preliminaries, semi-finals, and finals.

Ten students on the debate team competed in the well-renowned tournament, where a total of six Fremd students qualified for the tournament’s semifinals, including sophomores Ashish Kashyap, Jason Li, and Kay Shidle, and juniors Adarsh Prathap, Ishaan Srivastava, and Prithika Devajaran. They broke the previous record of two and joined the top 60 debaters of the country to semifinals. 

Devarajan was the first Fremd student to make it to finals at the national tournament, finishing tenth in the entire nation. Devarajan recounts the moment she realized what just occurred.

“I was in shock, and my coach, Ms. K [Rachael Kruelwich], was like, ‘Prithika, breaking news, you just made history’ and I was like so surprised and couldn’t believe it.”

Devarajan goes on to speak about her experience during the finals stage.

 “It was really intense,” Devajaran said. “Like a week before, we were reviewing and listening to all of these top debaters, and I had the ability to debate with these debaters. They were all really cool and I learned so much.”

Krulewich, the head coach of Fremd Congressional Debate, started mentoring seven years ago. She recounts the previous difficult phase that now evolved to a recent steady stream of victories, owing much credit to the past head coaches, Martin Zacharia and Michael Bruce.

“We were much much smaller and almost never won sweepstakes trophies,” Krulewich mentions.  “Now we are pretty much always in the mix and have come in either first or second place in the large school varsity division at every tournament over the past four years.”

Fremd’s Congressional Debate team is one of the three debate teams that exist in the school, along with the Lincoln-Douglas team (LD) and the Public Forum team (PF). While LD is one against one and PF is two against two, Congress is a mock legislative assembly where students debate against an entire room of others and discuss bills ranging from domestic to foreign policy.

The Congressional debate team typically participates in the monthly Illinois Congressional Debate Association tournaments (ICDA) throughout its competitive season. Later in March, the team competes in the Illinois Debate Community (IDC) Tournament and the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Debate State Tournament. 

Just this year alone, the Congressional debate team’s track record consists of two first place finishes and two second place finishes, due to their recent Second Place Large Team Sweepstakes Award win at last week’s ICDA 4.  At ICDA 4, Fremd senior Pranaav Prasad was awarded with the title of Third Place Quality Speaker, placing among the top ranked debaters at the tournament. 

The Lincoln-Douglas team as well as the Public Forum team has also made huge gains this year, including their two recent tournaments at Palatine High School and Belvidere North. At the Walk the Plank Debate Tournament at Palatine High School, Samarth Chitgopekar and Adithya Vaidyanathan won first place for the varsity PF team, as well as Kevin Zhou and Vibhav Prabhakar winning first and fourth place respectively for the varsity LD team. 

At the Belvidere North Thunder Invitational Debate Tournament, Selina Jiang and Sophia Zhao secured a second place win, as well as Theofanis Yianas and Arushi Bhatia finishing fourth as representatives for the varsity PF team. Kevin Zhou placed first along with Sanjana Kashyap placing fourth for the varsity LD team.

The Congressional Debate team underwent several challenges this past month, due to the quick turnarounds. Two weeks after ICDA 2 was ICDA 3, and a week after came the Glenbrooks tournament. On top of that, the ICDA tournaments require every student to prepare for nine bills, while Glenbrooks provides over 15 bills to research for.

Krulewich goes on to reference the motto for all debate teams: “Growth and Honor.”

“For growth, it’s not all about winning at all costs. Yes, winning is great, but truthfully I care that as a team, we are making strides to grow and that individuals are growing. What I want to see is the students putting in the work and pushing themselves to take risks.” Krulewich said. “For honor, it’s about being respectful and being a good representative of Fremd, but it’s also about contributing to research. Not just used by you, but by the entire team.” 

Krulewich ends off with a message for anyone interested in becoming a part of the Fremd debate community.

“Debate is a lot of fun. I think it’s one of those activities where the idea behind it is to help find your own voice, and learn how to advocate for yourself and to know what your beliefs are, but also to listen to other people’s beliefs with an open mind.”