El Camino Forensics eyeing NPTE annual invitational following ‘mind-boggling’ season start

El Camino Forensics was awarded multiple first place awards after competing at the Mills Invitational tournament at Palomar Community College on Oct. 5. Photo credit: Omar Rashad

The El Camino Forensics team is looking to gain momentum following superior performances at recent debate tournaments over the past few weeks, the director of the program said.

The El Camino Forensics team currently holds the title of defending national champions following last season’s top placement at the two-year and four-year college competition levels. With the start of the new season, the forensics team performed at a high caliber over the past few weeks, enough for El Camino to take four spots in the top thirty rankings of the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence (NPTE).

“This could be our best year ever, which is big to say because we’ve had some amazing years,” said Francesca Bishop, the Director of El Camino Forensics. “We’re the defending two-time national champions. I think there’s a good chance we could win three national (championships) because I think we can win NPTE also.”

The NPTE, which ranks 177 two-year and four-year schools’ forensic teams across America, shows El Camino teams ranked 8th, 14th, 15th and 29th in the nation. With each ranking consisting of a pair of debate students, El Camino will have at least three chances to win the NPTE’s annual invitational tournament this upcoming spring, Bishop said.

Such optimism follows El Camino Forensics’ performances at the Mills Invitational, which took place on Oct. 5, and the Aztec Invitational, which occurred on Oct. 6 and 7.

El Camino Forensics came away with wins in multiple categories at the Mills Invitational including extemporaneous speaking, impromptu speaking, and persuasive speech.

“We had a wide range of students do very, very awesome things at the tournament,” said Assistant Director of Forensics, Joseph Evans. “It wasn’t just we were good at debate or we were good at speaking, we kind of cleaned up all of those things at the Mills Invitational.”

At the Aztecs Invitational, El Camino again placed in multiple categories as the team’s performance had been impressive and surprising, Evans said.

With more tournaments ahead, El Camino Forensics is looking to beat the record they set two years ago as they placed 8th overall at the NPTE annual invitational tournament in 2016.

“I anticipate that hopefully we’ll beat our record that we set two years ago, I’m very optimistic about that,” Evans said.

The El Camino Forensics team is “one of the most talented and most motivated classes that I have seen since I’ve been here at El Camino,” Evans said. “It’s kind of mind-boggling.”

Sophomore Zachary Johnson won in multiple categories at the Mills Invitational and has “already got four-year schools trying to recruit him,” Bishop said.

Johnson, who is currently ranked 29th in the nation along with his partner Connor Eades, attributed his tournament performance to his team’s coaches and “the fact that they’re able to take these students and tap their potential to the degree that they do,” Johnson said. “You have very dedicated coaches who have been doing this forever.”

Ranked 15th in the nation along with her partner, Mina Deshler, Raquel Tahvildari is also the Co-President of El Camino’s Speech and Debate club. With a large academic workload and a part-time job, it comes down to “trying to set aside those extra hours during the week to push myself to do more practices,” Tahvildari said.

“I always know that there’s always areas I need to improve in and learn,” Tahvildari added. “It’s kind of a confidence boost but at the same time I’m keeping very humble knowing that there are many who are better.”

With more tournaments coming up within the next month, the El Camino Forensics team is anticipated to “do very well, if not better than we’ve been doing,” Evans said.

Update Wednesday, Oct. 24, 9:58 p.m., Photo was added to the story.

Update Monday, Oct. 22, 8:58 p.m., Omar Rashad was given credit for writing the story, he previously was not due to a technical error.