Heading into the national speech and debate finals, Wilde Lake High School still boasts the No. 1 debater in the Baltimore Catholic Forensic League -- only a different teammate has emerged to claim the honor.
Alex Kolodner, the Columbia school's team captain, went from 11th place to first in the Lincoln-Douglas division in the speech and debate state finals Saturday at Calvert Hall College High School in Towson. In the four-round one-on-one challenge, he surpassed teammate Brady Daniller, who entered top-ranked but fell to sixth place, the final qualifying spot for the national tournament.
Wilde Lake coach Kelli Midgely-Biggs called Saturday "a great day" for her team, which qualified four of five competitors to the National Catholic Forensic League Grand National Tournament in Appleton, Wis., over Memorial Day weekend. She added, "Alex's win was a nice affirmation for our program."
Kolodner, a junior in his second year of debate, said he never really knows if he has won a Lincoln-Douglas debate round until he sees the results. He called his school's performance "a nice surprise for all of us."
Wilde Lake's Isabel Enerson, a junior and first-time competitor, took top honors in impromptu speaking and placed second in children's literature -- exhibition events held only at the state level. She earned a trip to Wisconsin by finishing in sixth place in extemporaneous speaking. Senior Natalie Hill also will make the trip after placing third in oral interpretation of literature.
"It's a remarkable thing to have two state champs," said Midgely-Biggs of Kolodner and Enerson.
Yusuf Ahmad of Atholton High School took second place in extemporaneous speaking and was the only other qualifier from Howard County.
Daniller, a sophomore, lost his second round Saturday and ended up in his final round facing Sasha Tereschenko, a Centennial High junior.
"I thought he would demolish me right away," said Daniller, who has never opposed the Russian immigrant whom Midgely-Biggs has called "brilliant."
"I knew I couldn't go into it thinking, 'I gotta win, I gotta win,' so I just did my thing," Daniller said. "And fortunately, it worked out,"
Said Midgely-Biggs: "It was a shame that Brady and Sasha had to debate each other with such high stakes on the line, but they are friends and they handled it really well."
As for his loss in the second round, Daniller said, "I knew it wasn't going my way. My opponent was making better arguments."
Kolodner said his technique is to "concentrate the majority of my arguments on pathos -- I don't use any logos. There is an Arab proverb that says, 'If a man speaks from his lips, he will be heard by another man's ears, but if a man speaks from his heart, he will be heard by another man's heart.' That's what I aim to do."
He said he drew the affirmative position three of four times for the day's resolution.
"The nice thing about the aff side is that you get the last say, and you can really wrap things up," said Kolodner. "You get to solidify your stance and drive your points home."
The Baltimore league is made up of 40 private and public high schools in the metropolitan area and is one of the largest group members in the national league, according to the organization's Web site. The resolution for the national tournament will be released March 31, officials said.
"I am not even thinking about debate," said Daniller. "It gets pretty intense, and it's nice to take a break."