The Ridge Forensics Team was awarded its thirteenth straight New Jersey State Championship at the New Jersey Forensic League State Championships, held at The College of New Jersey, Ewing Township, on March 7th and 8th. The speech and debate teams advanced into the elimination rounds to capture the first place Team Sweepstakes Award in Speech Events, the first place Team Sweepstakes Award in Debate Events, and the first place Team Sweepstakes Award Overall.
Director of Ridge Forensics, David Yastremski, comments, “this year has been truly a phenomenal year for the team. We have won overall team awards at several national level events including the Yale Invitational, the New York City Invitational, George Mason University’s Patriot Games, the University of Pennsylvania’s Liberty Bell Classic and Harvard University. Ridge has maintained itself as one of the highest ranked teams in the country with the National Speech and Debate Association, currently listed at #14.”
Yastremski adds, “this is particular noteworthy since our team is purely extra-curricular. Many states and districts incorporate competitive speech and debate into their program of studies. Our students achieve such high success without a day-to-day class in their schedule. Its hard work, and our students and families make an extraordinary amount of sacrifices, but they continue to reach great heights and accomplishments.”
Ridge students took the top State Champion honors in several events: Vaikunth Balaji in International Extemporaneous Speaking, Gabriella Schnell in Dramatic Interpretation, Sam Hoffman in Improvisational Acting, Michael Cervino in Congressional Debate, and two Ridge students ‘closed-out’ the final round in Novice Lincoln Douglas Debate and were declared co-champions: Shankar Krishnan and Vikram Kalghatgi.
Brian Fletcher, Lincoln Douglas coach, states, “all four of our novice debaters advanced into the elimination rounds at the tournament. They have really been focused on continuing the legacy of Ridge debaters at the state and national level. Their success was well deserved.”
Other Ridge students who advanced to the elimination rounds of the tournament include seniors Louise Daly, Brinda Gurumoorthy, Darius Hunt, Nikhil Kapadia, Atreya Misra, Arianna Montero Colbert, Connor Murphy, Alec Pan, Sabina Razak, Emily Woo, Kevin Yang, and Michelle Zhao; juniors Anudeep Akenapalli, AJ D’Ambrosio, , Jonathan Jen , Raina Karia, Katie Lemke, Amanda Luthy, Nidhi Mahagaokar, Tim O’Shea, Asli Pekcan, Allison Shim, Sejal Waghray, and Amy Zhong; sophomores Naiti Bhatt, Kim Castillo, Alicia Jen, Katherine Kleinle Srinivas Mandyam, Brian McCormick, Aditya Sheth, Timothy Tang, Varun Venguopal, Eric Wan, William Wei, Jasmine Xie, Willa Yu, Amy Zhang, Felix Zheng, and Ben Zhou; and freshman Rajan Gupta, Patrick Kirkwood, Collin Montag, and Chandni Singhvi.
Ridge reclaimed the Speech Sweepstakes award this year after a third place finish in 2013. Stephanie Fletcher, assistant speech coach, states, “these students were on a mission this year to bring that title back to Ridge. They worked so hard to make it happen, and they did it with a large margin of victory.”
Ridge took first place with 171 points over last year’s champion, Montville Township who earned 147.5 points in the speech categories. Ridge earned the overall team title with 301 combined speech and debate points over Montville’s 196.5 and Freehold Township’s 145 points.
Andrew Monagle, public address coach, states, “our underclassmen really stepped it up this year. While many teams rely on their seniors to carry their success, this year, the talent spanned across all four grade levels. Ridge has always worked hard to be a nationally-ranked team and our underclassmen have clearly demonstrated they’re ready for that challenge.”
In addition, the Ridge Congressional debaters became the first team to sweep the entire event with 1st through 6th place finishes. Martin Page, Congress coach, comments, “this team was unstoppable this year. From Connor Murphy’s victory at Yale in September to our first place team award at Harvard, their determination and work ethic was the key to this year’s victories. Even when weather disrupted our practice schedule this season, the students were researching and Skyping practice speeches from home.”
Other coaches assisting the Ridge team include Christopher Fielder, Alisha Shariballi, and Ridge alumni Gia Farooqi, Jonathan Florio, Brian Moore, Danielle Presuto, and Rebecca Shuster. Recently, the Ridge team qualified a record 32 students to the National Catholic Forensic League Championships in Chicago, 18 students to the National Speech and Debate Association Championships in Kansas City, and 13 students to the Tournament of Champions at the University of Kentucky.