The student news site of Rogers High School

The Commoner

The student news site of Rogers High School

The Commoner

The student news site of Rogers High School

The Commoner

After five years, RHS Debate Club returns to local tournaments.

At two recent events, Rogers has faced fierce competition and broken into the final rounds.
Photo by Jacob Gavre
Photo: (Left to Right) Thomas Oh, Coach Witek, Troy Sukgen, Diego Garcia-Peña, Cedar Parker, Sawyer Walker, Tali Yakopson, Jacob Gavre, Abigail Sung, Orli Yakopson.

Thursday, January 4th. A date dreaded by many Rogers’ students. A day to crawl out of bed, pack a lunch, and brave high school once again after a sleepy winter break.  

When the bell rings at the end of the day, a palpable sense of relief washes over the school, now free from the grips of the system- at least for the night.  

Yet, through the hustle and bustle of the hallways- pouring out the doors in a rush as frenzied as white-water rapids and just as violent- a group of students are in no hurry.  

They are the Rogers Debate Club, and today they have a very special meeting.  

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Their daunting task: to prepare for the Ram’s first forensics event in half a decade.  

That Saturday morning, students from the Rogers Debate Club arrived at the University of Puget Sound for their 89th High School Forensics Tournament.  

Gathering in the Wheelock Student Center, our novice debaters prepared for the first round of SPAR- an improvised speech event new to the tournament.  

In the following three scrimmages, they faced students from across the region- including our crosstown rivals at Puyallup High School- on topics ranging from economics to cats vs. dogs.  

“The debates can be wild” remarked Cedar Parker, a first-year Debate Club member, “they can be really serious or super-duper silly, and it’s a lot less scary than you think!” 

Mirroring Parker, other novices also expressed relief following the much anticipated first round. 

“The event right now is going really good,” testified Diego Garcia-Peña, another new addition to the club roster. “One: everybody’s being nice. Two: everybody is like competitive but not like so competitive that makes you wanna get out. It’s like a good environment.” 


Photo: Seniors Cedar Parker, Diego Garcia-Peña, and Sawyer Walker exploring the campus at UPS 


Between rounds, the competitors had time to get to know the campus and eat at the student dining hall.  

This impromptu college tour allowed them to explore the brickwork passages, classical courtyards, and modern glass-encased additions, tightly placed within 97 acres of Tacoma’s historic North End.  

They also passed time in the student center with playing cards, charades, and anxious imaginations. 

After three rounds of argumentation came and went, the contestants regrouped and waited for the list of finalists to be posted.  

When the time came, it was club vice-president Jacob Gavre who went on to the final round.  

“I did not expect our first tournament to result in any of us making it but dude, we made it. We’re finalists- we are going to win this for Rogers High School! Go Rams!” the senior said upon hearing the news.  

While Gavre went on to place fifth, Rogers also landed two more spots in the top ten, courtesy of Thomas Oh and Tali Yakopson. With this, the UPS-hosted Tournament cemented itself as an impressive outing for the once struggling program.  

“I’m feeling really good, that was so fun- a very good experience” said Club President Tali Yakopson, “I like to see […] how other people debate.” 

Following the excitement and success at the University of Puget Sound, Rogers was eager to get back in the ring. 

At their weekly meetings, the club began practicing SPAR in hopes they would soon return to the world of competitive debate. 

That wish came true the next month, at the 2024 Federal Way Invitational. 


On Friday, February 2nd, they departed Rogers early to attend the afternoon tournament. 

Arriving at Federal Way High School, they were taken aback by the cold, expansive campus. 

Awaiting the first round, one can only imagine the anticipation they must have faced… 

After five years of absence, Rogers was back in the local debate scene.  

Would they continue their streak, battling into the final round? Or was last time simply a fluke? 

After their first round, the Rams quickly realized this new event was a much different beast. 

“In the last tournament the questions were pretty wacky, but at this tournament it wasn’t wacky, it was goofy level,” explains Troy Sukgen. 

“Pop Tarts are ravioli.” 

“Push doors are better than pull doors.” 

“Would Rick Astley give you a copy of the movie Up even though he said he was never gonna give you up?”  

These are the SPAR topics which one debater described as “bonkers”. 

The following rapid-fire procession of rounds stretched late into the night. When the dust settled, the Rams were left to wait for the list of finalists to be posted online. 

“They refreshed [the website] and then they said, Thomas, you made it,” recalled finalist Thomas Oh, “I could not believe it… I thought they were joking.” 

With this news, Oh and company rushed to the finals. 

After a fierce debate, Oh ranked 4th in the whole event. 

With a second climactic victory, it appears that Rogers’ once struggling Debate Club is back for good. 

While local events are sparse for the rest of the school year, our Rams are eager to get back on the debate stage. 

As the journey comes to a close for the seniors who have guided this club to success, a promising underclass is rising to write the next chapter. 

And it’s not too late to join them. 

Debate Club continues to meet afterschool every Tuesday, in Mr. Witek’s room, C-202. 

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