Aboutabl advances to National debate tournament


Photo Courtesy of Ganna Aboutabl

(Left to right) Sophomore Hayden Kirwan, Seniors James Henderson, Samuel Heie, William Daniel, Ganna Aboutable and junior Ritt Culbreth celebrate their victories at VHSL’s Regional Tournament. Daniel, Culbreth and Aboutabl all competed at the National Qualifying tournament as well, with Aboutabl placing first and advancing to Nationals. “I don’t think I’m going to win anything at Nationals, but it’s really exciting to be able to go,” Aboutable said.

Senior Ganna Aboutabl joined our debate team just two short years ago and has since risen to be one of the top Lincoln-Douglas (LD) debaters in not only our school, but the country. Over the weekend of April 12-13, Aboutabl competed at Sherando High School in The National Speech and Debate Association’s National Qualifying Tournament. There, she competed against 25 other high schools and placed First in the LD Division.

Senior William Daniel and junior Ritt Culbreth also competed, ranking fourth out of 22 teams and missing a spot in the National Tournament by just one vote.

“This is an amazing accomplishment; to my knowledge, it’s the first time HHS has ever advanced to this level of debate competition,” debate coach Aaron Cosner said.

One thing that Aboutabl felt helped her in the competition was her familiarity with the resolution as a whole, as well as the strengths and weakness of her own case.

“I debated [that resolution] so many times, at least 15 times, [before the tournament]. I knew that case like the back of my hand, so I didn’t really have to look at the paper as much, which helped a lot with confidence,” Aboutabl said. “Debating it so much, you hear other people’s arguments so you have so many blocks prepared to defend your case.”

This competition was larger and stronger than many of the opponents Aboutabl sees in local tournaments.

“It was scarier, because in ShenVaFL (Shenandoah Valley Forensics League) and VHSL (Virginia High School League) [the competitors] are all kind of mediocre, and then for this all the [really] good people go, so it was really intimidating. I considered dropping out a couple of times before going,” Aboutabl said.

To boost her confidence before facing off against the nation’s best, Aboutabl tries to get into the right mindset before every round.

“I focus more on the delivery part of it. I kind of hype myself up to feel more confident, rather than being aggressive. For me, confidence is the best way to go into a round,” Aboutabl said.

In addition to confidence, it’s important to appeal to the judge. Aboutabl makes sure she is aware of how she is delivering her case to make her more successful.

“If you’re just talking monotone, it sounds like you’re just spitting out facts. Yeah it’s important to have stats and facts in your case, but it’s also important to have your own voice in it so that you can express your tone of emotion to the judge,” Aboutabl said.

Aboutabl is now looking forward to competing at the National tournament in Dallas, TX, which will take place June 16-21.