A Glimpse of Greatness: Speech and Debate Team Celebrates Major Successes

[Left to right] Hannah Hoffmann, Olivia Smathers, and Bernadette Azar dominate their competition and will compete at the State level

Emma Holtz '20, Assistant Editor

“Deliberation and debate is the way you stir the soul of our democracy.” These moving words, first spoken by Civil Rights activist Jesse Jackson, continue to be practiced today by the Oakland Catholic Speech and Debate Team, who achieved enormous success this season. Members train extensively at practices for competitive tournaments nearly every weekend, and their hard work has definitely paid off! A number of the team’s accomplishments can be credited to a young sophomore core. Hannah Hoffmann ‘21 had consistent top 6 finishes in Lincoln Douglas Debate throughout the season. She even earned an impressive 2nd place award at the North Allegheny tournament in January: I was so excited,” she recalled, “I had no idea that I had placed at all, let alone second, so hearing my name called was exhilarating and completely unexpected. It’s always a great feeling when your hard work and dedication pays off.” She will be advancing to the upcoming State Competition in the Lincoln Douglas category. The powerhouse team of Olivia Smathers ‘21 and Bernadette Azar ‘21 will also be competing at the State level for Policy Debate, which is a brand new debate category established this year at OC. Smathers and Azar have dominated the competition so far with several top 3 finishes and even a 1st place victory in Policy Debate at the Sterner Steel Invitational Tournament at Central Catholic in January. Olivia competes successfully in Lincoln Douglas as well as Policy. The accomplishments achieved this year come after only one previous season of all three sophomores consistently bringing home trophies in their respective categories. Other members who have received medals, trophies, or recognition for their efforts this season include Lincoln Douglas debaters Lauren Weiss ‘21, Olivia Marangoni ‘21, and Cassie Moats ‘19, the Public Forum team of Arabella Sargent ’21 and Gwen Havern ‘21, and Speech competitors Audrey Flanagan ‘22 and Christina Eid ‘22. Much of the Speech and Debate team’s growth over the years and ongoing success can be attributed to the senior leaders, Shannon Rodgers and Cassie Moats, who have become major motivators for the younger students. Lianna Rishel ‘21 attested to the strong bonds formed throughout this year: “The team is super close and supportive, which makes traveling and tournaments a blast!”

The Speech and Debate Team would not be the same without their fearless moderator and coach Mrs. Rinkacs, who was eager to equate her team’s successes with the girls’ strong work ethic stating, The most incredible thing about our success is that we are only three years into our debate program. For our debaters to have been able to pick up these skills so quickly is truly amazing and a testament to their hard work.  This is a long season and I continue to be impressed with the high level of commitment I get from these students week in and week out.”

The 2018-2019 season started in October with close to 30 speech and debate participants, and will continue as students prepare extensively for the States and National Qualifiers in March. Stay tuned!


Full roster of the team

Seniors: Cassie Moats, Shannon Rodgers, Alex Ravano, Kennedi Wade

Juniors: Emily Gong, Susie Garrison, Mona Lin

Sophomores: Olivia Smathers, Bernadette Azar, Hannah Hoffmann, Olivia Marangoni, Norah Ostin, Lauren Weiss, Elena Ziccarelli, Lianna Rishel, Meghan Pavlick, Arabella Sargent, Gwen Havern, Maggie Hassan

Freshmen: Olivia Krummert, Ella Maier, Audrey Flanagan, Christina Eid, Isabella Liu Lopez