Los Altos/Campolindo LS triumphs at Stephen Stewart Invitational

On the weekend of September 29th, Los Altos/Campolindo’s Ryan Lee & Sophie Stankus won the Stephen Stewart Invitational (SSI) on a 2-1 decision against Irvington’s Anushka Kulkarni & Ryan Lee, negating the resolution, “The United States Federal Government should remove denuclearization as a condition of diplomatic relations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

The final decision hinged on the question of whether status quo denuclearization negotiations are effective, or not. On the affirmative, Kulkarni & Lee argued that pressuring Kim Jong-Un will hurt United States legitimacy. Lee & Stankus responded by defending current negotiations, and argued that removing those talks would increase nuclear testing and the likelihood of war.

Alan Fishman, a college debater at the University of the Pacific and Nueva judge for SSI, voted for the negative. “I vote on a risk that the US will lose legitimacy by backing down and cause allied proliferation,” said Fishman, “I think that the round had a lot of good [topical] arguments that demonstrated that both teams knew a lot about the [resolution].”

Ryan Lee (left) and Sophie Stankus (right) after winning the tournament.

Ryan Lee (left) and Sophie Stankus (right) after winning the tournament.


Kulkarni & Lee’s appearance in finals at SSI was their second time as finalists already in the 2018-2019 season, after finaling at the Notre Dame Parliamentary Warmup two weeks earlier. This tournament was also not the first time that the finalists debated each other in an outround this season; Kulkarni & Lee debated Lee & Stankus in quarterfinals at Notre Dame, making SSI finals the second time this season that the two Ryan Lees have debated each other in an elimination round.

Named after Stephen Stewart, the tournament is a tribute to the late 2008 founder of the Milpitas High Debate team. The Stephen Stewart Invitational ran in January during the past two debate seasons, but switched to the fall this year for the first time. Charles Schletzbaum, the tournament director, said that he made this change for several reasons. First, because Milpitas High School hosts a Coast Forensic League tournament in January, and hosting two tournaments close to each other was logistically difficult, and second, because The Harker School’s Nichols Invitational was cancelled—moving SSI to their date allowed the tournament to cover two out of Harker’s eight bids.

The tournament broke 32 teams from a varsity pool of 77 entries and did not host elimination rounds for the JV pool of 21. Many debaters felt that this tournament could have been more timely.

“I’m pretty sure we’re two hours behind,” said Club Parli’s Amaryllis Gao after the second preliminary round, “They also pushed [the fifth round] to tomorrow and I have a lot of homework to do.”

“We’ve been waiting for all three of our rounds so far...I feel like [the wait time] could be better.” Dougherty Valley’s Chilsea Wang said while waiting for the round four topic.

Gunn’s Allen Su secured a first place speaker award in varsity, followed by finalist Stankus and Evergreen Valley’s Jenna Bao, placing second and third, respectively. Meanwhile, in novice, Dougherty Valley’s Adithya Krishnaraj & Pranav Nair took first seed, with Northgate’s Michelle Alas & Caroline Welch and Campolindo’s Cathy Kenderski & Lela Tolajian in second and third,.

The Stephen Stewart Invitational announced two topic areas prior to the tournament weekend – “U.S.-China relations” and “U.S. natural disaster response” for rounds one and two, respectively – which debaters had differing opinions on.

Gao believed that arguments were generally higher quality due to the extra preparation time. “I really liked the topic areas,” Gao said, “I get to do research before [the tournament] and I feel a lot more prepared.”

A varsity debater, requesting anonymity, disagreed. “I don’t like topic areas in general because they’re disadvantageous to smaller teams,” he said, “It allows [larger] teams to prep tons of files together before tournaments and coaches often know or have insight into what kinds of resolutions will come from a given topic area.”

Some debaters also thought that though the topic areas were not an issue, there was a disconnect between the resolutions and the topic areas they were given ahead of time.

“I feel like if it weren’t for the topic areas they would be fun resolutions, but you can’t just give a topic area and give a resolution that is only tangentially related to one specific word,” said Wang, referencing the second preliminary round’s resolution, “The United States Federal Government should waive proof of ownership requirements for federal disaster relief for Heirs’ Property land holdings.”


Gunn Aishani Banerjee & Allen Su def. Irvington Rishabh Agarwal & Ved Mistry (3-0)

Menlo-Atherton Andrew Gordan & Chris Ikonomou def. Campolindo Shannon Bonet & Sharon Yuan (2-1)

Irvington Shevanti Kumar & Vidushee Mishra def. Evergreen Valley Jenna Bao & Winnie Dong (2-1)

Nueva Andrew Chu & Rajeev Sharma def. El Cerrito Audrey Dowling & Maxime St-Jean (2-1)

Evergreen Valley Edward Frazer & Suhas Kotha def. Bishop O’Dowd Alden O’Rafferty & Connor Whitehill (2-1)

Irvington Anushka Kulkarni & Ryan Lee def. Evergreen Valley Nidhir Guggilla & Jeffrey Xiong (3-0)

Los Altos/Campolindo Ryan Lee & Sophie Stankus def. Club Parli Katie Doran & Amanda Hao (3-0)

Los Altos Henry Shi & Angelina Lue def. & Dougherty Valley Haris Khan & Joyce Wu (2-1)


Irvington Kumar & Mishra def. Gunn Banerjee & Su (2-1)

Menlo-Atherton Gordan & Ikonomou def. Los Altos Shi & Lue (2-1)

Los Altos/Campolindo Lee & Stankus def. Nueva Chu & Sharma (3-0)

Irvington Kulkarni & Lee def. Evergreen Valley Frazer & Kotha (3-0)


Irvington KL w/o Irvington KM (N/A)

Los Altos/Campolindo LS def. Menlo-Atherton GI (2-1)


Los Altos/Campolindo LS def. Irvington KL (2-1)

Results can be found here.

Resolutions can be found here.