Travis Chen, the captain of the Palo Alto High School Debate Team, looks to lead a new wave of successful debaters after winning the Victory Briefs Tournament (VBT) in Los Angeles the first weekend of January. Despite taking months off from debate to focus on college applications, Chen had no trouble defeating the top two Lincoln-Douglas (LD) debaters in the nation during VBT, a tournament widely regarded as the second most prestigious, behind year-end the Tournament of Champions.
The semifinal rounds were Chen’s toughest round, as he had to face Danny DeBois, the number one LD debater in the country.
“[DeBois is] an excellent debater, so our round was very close,” Chen said. “But I ended up winning on a 2-1 [vote].
In all of the other elimination rounds, including the finals, Chen won on unanimous 3-0 decisions.
“I was happy with my performance at the tournament as a whole, as I did much better than I expected,” Chen said.
Assistant Coach Alex Carter traveled to Los Angeles and witnessed Chen in the final round, along with 100 other debaters and coaches from across the country.
Carter is optimistic that Chen’s triumph at VBT will not only bring prestige to Chen, but will also help attract new students to the debate team.
“[Chen’s victory] hopefully brings [out] our team visibility both within Paly and on a national scale,” Carter said. “Big wins contribute more than anything else to our recruiting efforts.”
According to Head Coach Jennie Savage, Chen contributes much more than debate victories to the team.
“[Chen enhances] the reputation of our team not only because of his successes, but [also] because of his integrity,” Savage said. “[Chen] is the kind of debater [who] everyone on the team looks up to and most of the team aspires to be.”
One such debater, sophomore Griffin Carlson, has acquired priceless knowledge from Chen throughout his high school career, who he says is effective because he “leads by exampele.”
Savage recognizes the full extent of empowerment Chen’s win at VBT gives to the rest of the debate team.
“[His victory] lets folks know that they’re a part of a team that is successful and close knit,” Savage said.
With Chen set to graduate this spring, the expectation of accomplishment that the debate team has acquired will pass onto the underclassmen.
However, Chen has high hopes for their success.
“I absolutely think that Paly Debate will continue destroying it at tournaments next year,” Chen said. “We have a lot of talented novices and awesome sophomores who are very driven to excel.”