Debating duo talk their way to victory

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By Ada Ciuca

Late January seems to have been an important time period for the Hilltalkers, Los Alamos High School’s award-winning debate team.
Between Jan. 20-22, the debaters set out for Arizona State University in hopes of conquering a tournament, which featured roughly 68 teams from all over the Southwest.
Though they competed against some private schools that seemingly had more funding and one-on-one attention from coaches, Hilltalkers Andy Zhao and Horace Zhang were not intimidated and managed to place second in the Public Forum event.
The victories however, did not stop there. Between Feb. 3-5, the team was in Las Vegas, Nev. to compete in the Golden Desert tournament. The results from that competition proved more impressive than those achieved in Arizona.
The Golden Desert Tournament was at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and hosted high schools from the Western United States, as well as Alaska. There, Zhao and Zhang managed to earn a Tournament of Champions bid, the most prestigious honor a debater can receive.
Only two other Hilltalkers in history have managed to make the top three, and the Zhao-Zhang duo is the first ’Topper team to compete in the Tournament of Champions.
“This win culminates our progression,” Zhao said of his achievement. Zhang supports his partner. “Representing Los and proving that a small school with not much funding can be successful nationally was great! I appreciate how far Andy and I have gotten with the support of the team.”
With such prestigious achievements, it’s hard to imagine what the future holds for the duo. Both Zhao and Zhang, captains of the Public Forum team, plan to pursue their passion for debate when they go to college.
Zhao plans on attending Stanford University and becoming involved with Model United Nations, while Zhang is heading to Princeton University and plans to continue on with some form of public speaking activity.  
Though these two LAHS seniors are headed far from Los Alamos, they don’t plan on forgetting those who have helped them.
“Thank you to Ms. Newton and Ms. Thibodeau for driving us across the desert,” Zhang said. Zhao adds, “And thanks to Mrs. Batha for the unconditional love and support … and thanks Truj for being Truj!”