Duo places among top three at NSDA New England District Final; Ajmera qualifies for NCFL Grand National
CHELMSFORD, MA (Feb. 14, 2022) – The Chelmsford High School Speech and Debate team of juniors Arjun Lingala and Prateek Motagi qualified for the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) National Tournament in June after a stellar showing in the virtual NSDA New England District Finals Feb. 4-6.
Mr. Lingala and Mr. Motagi, who are ranked No. 4 in the state in the format of Public Forum Debate, placed among the top three in the District final, which drew 109 competitors and 25 teams representing 18 high schools from New England. Joining them at the nationals will be teams from Boston Latin H.S. and Lexington H.S.
Mr. Lingala and Mr. Motagi’s result was one of two recent highlights for the CHS Speech and Debate Team. Last weekend, junior Rishi Ajmera, who competes in the format of Lincoln-Douglas debate, qualified for the National Catholic Forensics League (NCFL) Grand National Tournament after a stellar showing at the online NCFL qualifier.
The topic for the NSDA District final was whether the NATO membership of Turkey was beneficial. Mr. Lingala and Mr. Motagi, whose stance was pro NATO membership for Turkey, went 4-1 in the preliminary rounds and advanced to the eighth round on Sunday, for which they received a bye. When CHS, Boston Latin and Lexington were the sole teams remaining, the Tournament was declared complete as each team qualified for nationals.
“We had the ideal mindset to just be in the present and stick to what we know,” said Mr. Lingala. “Doing well in this tournament was assurance to us that we can keep doing well.”
Mr. Motagi believes experience played a huge role: “I think what contributed to our success was our overall strength in understanding debate and different strategies,” he said. “While we had much less evidence and arguments compiled in comparison with the other teams, our strong experience and growth at high-level tournaments have really improved the choices and persuasive styles that we make to still win the round.”
The NSDA National Tournament is scheduled for June 12-17 in Louisville, KY. After bowing out in the preliminary round at the 2021 NSDA New England final, Mr. Lingala and Mr. Motagi focused solely on each round.
Mr. Lingala and Mr. Motagi have also qualified for the University of Kentucky Tournament of Champions for the second consecutive year, to be held virtually Apr. 23-25. The two have enjoyed a stellar season thus far, which also included a finalist appearance at the Dowling Catholic Paradigm in December.
“Arjun and Prateek are very good students of competitive debate,” said Peter Zopes, a CHS history teacher and advisor to the Speech and Debate Team. “They are very self-motivated and driven and very astute at what argument to use and deliver to different judges.”
Mr. Ajmera went 3-1 in the preliminary rounds at the NCFL qualifier and received a bye in the elimination round to finish among the top six entries (which were unrevealed), each of whom earned bids to the NCFL Grand National Tournament in Washington D.C., May 27-29.
A week prior, Mr. Ajmera qualified for the Massachusetts Speech and Debate League state final Mar. 25-27 (hosted by CHS), along with junior Vishant Raajkumar and sophomore Tarun Eswar, who also compete in Lincoln-Douglas debate.
“As a freshman, Rishi started debate in Public Forum Debate, but when his partner moved to another school, he moved into Lincoln Douglas Debate,” said Mr. Zopes. “He has made a name for himself on the national debate circuit in LD debate, winning several awards at national level tournaments this year.”
Mr. Ajmera will join Mr. Lingala, Mr. Motagi and the remainder of the CHS team in the Harvard National High School Forensics Tournament this weekend (online).
About Chelmsford Public Schools
The Chelmsford Public School District provides all students with multiple pathways to optimize their own potential for academic excellence, leadership, and social and emotional wellness. The mission of the Chelmsford Public Schools is to educate, engage, prepare, and empower well-rounded and knowledgeable learners to PERSEVERE through challenges, demonstrate RESPECT and INTEGRITY in their words and actions, are DEDICATED to their community, and display EMPATHY as global citizens while discovering and pursuing their full potential. This PRIDE-driven culture enables all members of the school community to support the growth and development of students. For more information, please visit www.chelmsfordschools.org.