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Westfield Debate Wins Sweepstakes

Student Nataliya Plotnitskaya qualifies for nationals.

Westfield High School's debate team won the first-place Sweepstakes Trophy against 10 schools, March 12, at the MetroFinals Debate at Edison High School. The trophy is awarded to the school that accumulates the most points during the season's five tournaments, plus the points won at MetroFinals.

"For us to win the Sweepstakes Trophy, which is the highest recognition of the efforts of the entire team, is a wonderful accomplishment," said coach and parent volunteer Ray Burt. "Debate is often thought of as a one-on-one competition, but Westfield's emphasis has been on a team approach."

Six Westfield High students went to MetroFinals: Lauren Burt (ranked 9th), Nataliya Plotnitskaya (3rd), Esther Lin (18th), Ariel Ittah (17th), Dan Dodds (14th) and Andrew Freidah (10th).

Nataliya Plotnitskaya, a junior, qualified to go to Nationals on May 28 in Milwaukee for her speaking and reasoning abilities. The top six in MetroFinals are eligible to attend Nationals.

"What's really good about Nataliya is she has a very focused and sharp delivery," said Burt. "Very few things escape her attention."

With 48 members on the debate team, Westfield students compete in the Student Congress style of debating — a form of debate based on the floor debates that occur in the U.S. Senate. Students are judged not only in terms of delivery, but also in content.

There are five Student Congress Tournaments each season, with the highest-ranked debaters moving on to MetroFinals, and then to Nationals at the end of the year. The tournaments begin with 90 to 120 debaters, of which 60 go on to MetroFinals, and 10 go on to Nationals. The two Westfield High captains are Lauren Burt and Nataliya Plotnitskaya. The team was started by Michael Greiner, Westfield's forensic teacher.

Westfield competes in two different leagues: Virginia High School League and the Washington-Arlington Catholic Forensics League, which is open to all schools in the metropolitan area, including Gonzaga, Whitman and Georgetown Prep. The season lasts from September to March 12.