He has had nothing but appreciation for his experiences and a drive to keep improving at the national level.
When it comes to debate at the national level, it takes an immense amount of skill and passion to stand out among the other competitors. Each event can have as many as 500 participants, adding up to over 3,000 competitors in total. The culminating event every year is the Tournament of Champions, held at the University of Kentucky. This event is seen as the National Championship of the debate circuit. Not only was Luke invited to compete as a sophomore, but he went as far as the semifinals, finishing in 11th place overall.
Although he may seem like a pro, the world of debate is relatively new to Luke. He discovered an immediate interest during his freshman year after noticing the Debate Club at the Senior School Activities Fair and figured he would give it a try. The format of debate gave him a chance to combine his interests in politics, international relations, and public speaking. The passion to compete at higher levels quickly began to develop as he started to invest immense amounts of time into perfecting his craft.
“The first thing I want to do when I look at a topic, whether it be sanctions or domestic tax policies, is gain an understanding of the issue, before I start figuring out what argument I want to run,” Luke explained. “ I have a rule with myself - Before I even start to write an argument, I have to read five articles on the issue, to gain an understanding of the issue from a variety of perspectives and to make sure I know what other people might say so I’m able to dive right into the technicality of the issue.” Luke puts in up to 20 hours per week preparing for high pressure tournaments. It may sound like grueling work, but to Luke, it’s worth it.
Being on stage or in front of an audience is a requirement for debate competitions, but stage fright is not an issue for Luke. Although he admitted to feeling the nerves right before high stakes moments. That’s where the friendships and connections he has made through debate club really stand out. Whether it is looking for a distraction before a vital speech, or decompressing after a long event, the relationships that have been made from tournament to tournament is a highlight for Luke.
“I have probably competed with around 2,000 other students throughout the spring, both directly and indirectly. It is definitely a lot, but it’s also one of the reasons I enjoy it so much. It allows me to meet people from across the country who share the same passion for particular issues that I do,” Luke said.
Luke is determined to keep pushing and taking on the next set of challenges the debate world has to offer for the upcoming school year. Much of the national circuit is based on getting your name out there and leaving an impression that gets you invited back, which he has certainly done. To be invited to events like the Tournament of Champions as a sophomore is incredibly rare and a great honor. But that won’t satisfy Luke for the coming year.
“My goals shift every year. This year my goal was to be invited to the Tournament of Champions, next year's goal is to win it. No matter how well you do, there’s always another level to strive for,” Luke said “ One thing that's great about Sewickley Academies speech and debate team is its wide range of participants. There are others like me who take it very seriously, but there are plenty of people who are involved just for fun. It's a great environment for anyone who would be interested in trying it out.”
Congratulations on a great season, Luke!