Two students from Brentwood College are among the best debaters in Canada.
Amelia Hadfield and Jaylynn Barth took top prize at the National Debate Championships, hosted by Sacred Heart High School in Halifax on April 12-15.
In the 43 years since its inception, Brentwood College has never made it to the top eight in this competition, much less won it.
Hadfield and Barth won the right to compete in the national competition after taking first place at the B.C. Provincial Tournament a month earlier, the first time contenders from Brentwood had done so since noted anthropologist and author Wade Davis and Graham Vink won in 1972.
The National Debate Championships in Halifax included 66 teams from 35 schools from across the country.
These were considered the best teams after competitions that involved more than 1,000 schools.
During the first part of the competition, Hadfield and Barth had to debate whether Britain should leave the European Union.
The students made use of local and international experts via Skype to assist in their research on the topic, totalling more than 50 hours of research during a one-month period prior to the competition.
The rest of the competition dealt with impromptu issues, with 30-minute preparation on complicated topics in religion, politics, philosophy and economics.
After knocking off Nova Scotia in the quarter finals and then Ontario in the semi-finals, Hadfield and Barth beat out another B.C team from Surrey to win the championship for Brentwood College.
Barth has been engrossed in debate for four years in Brentwood’s program, steadily working her way up the ranks from her club in her old school in Alberta, then winning various accolades and awards in five to six public speaking and debate competitions per year with Brentwood.
“Winning the national title only served to remind me that debate is not an activity you can leave in the classroom or at the podium; it follows you into discussions, self-advocacy, the workplace, and truly any cause you find worth defending,” Barth said.
“Words are dangerous and it’s time we started using them to their fullest potential.”
Hadfield sought good debate competition across several different B.C. schools before enrolling in Brentwood two years ago.
She not only took part in debate camps in the summer months, but also takes on a large burden of organizational and competitive roles in Brentwood’s debate program during the school year.
“This is Jaylynn and I’s last competition as partners, and there is no one I would rather share this with,” said Hadfield. “Ironically, winning this made me lost for words. It sounds cheesy, but we were happy just to be there, and genuinely honoured to be debating against such strong competition.”
Debate coach Neil Bryant said both Hadfield and Barth have defied the odds by beating debaters from across the country, many of whom have received private coaching since elementary school, by simply being “incredibly industrious in research, incredibly compelling behind a rostrum, and incredibly well matched intellectually and socially together”.
“They are a wonderful pair of young women who love to win,” he said.