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The student news site of Amador Valley High School

AmadorValleyToday

The student news site of Amador Valley High School

AmadorValleyToday

Jessica Liao travels around the country to attend Debate competitions

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Jocelyn (Hsin-Chiao) Hsu
Jessica Liao (’26) pursues her goals as a debater going for out-of-state competitions in Kentucky.

Growing up as a shy person, Jessica Liao (‘26) started participating in debate under her parents’ encouragement. As a sophomore, she has now become a well-rounded debater and an outgoing student, stepping into her third year of speech and debate.

Improving in Debate

“I’m part of the speech and debate club. Outside of school, I’m part of Debate Drills. It is a national team where we take classes and practice with others,” said Liao.

Through one tournament after another, Liao honed her skills and gained debate contest experience. She found it rewarding when getting further than she used to in the elimination rounds. 

“I’ve been to 8 to 10 tournaments this year. Most notably, my recent one is TOC Digital Speech and Debate Series 3. I was an octo finalist, and that’s the furthest I’ve ever gotten. I was pretty shocked since it’s at the tail end of a stressful season and I hadn’t been doing great in the tournaments before then. So that was really rewarding,” said Liao.

Finding the motivation can be difficult since a great performance does not guarantee success. It’s hard to build off the success from previous tournaments because performance varies greatly. 

“In terms of the most challenging part, debate is pretty much not linear in progress. You can do really well in one tournament and in the next run you might have a bad judging day. The judges might not act the way you think they should and your next round could just be a huge disaster. It’s just hard for you to stay motivated,” said Liao. 

The Next Tournament

Continuing on her journey in speech and debate, Liao puts effort into practicing with her peers. This year, she qualified and decided to participate in the 2024 Tournament of Champions for a greater challenge. 

“The tournament starts Saturday, Apr. 20. The competition is structured as a form of the nationals and I will be competing with my partner. The qualifying process stretches around the whole year. There is a certain tournament you can qualify for if you get to a certain elimination round, and you have to do that twice. I’ve gone there once and I filled out an application, which allows me to participate in this tournament,” said Liao. 

In this competition, Liao looks forward to improving her debate skills and building social networks with new people she meets in Lexington, Kentucky.

“I’ve been preparing by doing practice rounds with team members and calling with other debaters I know. For this upcoming Tournament of Champions, I’m looking forward to meeting people who I normally can’t since they’re on different coasts. I’m also looking forward to debating at a much higher level,” said Liao. 

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