Speech & Debate
2024 Speech & Debate Showcase Intro
2024 Seniors College Reveal

Sovia in Semis

Sofia "Sovia" in Semis


Since going from first place to last after the final round of United States Extemp (USX) at the 2023 East Los Angeles National Qualifying Tournament 15 months ago, junior Sofia Villagra has been on a mission. “Sovia”, as the team calls her, placed 6th at the ‘23 California State Championships the following month.  She then qualified for the ‘23 National Championships at the last chance online tournament the following week. And she has been “locked in” ever since.

“I really was just focused on making every round better than the last,” the junior and Extemp Co-Event Leader.  “In between rounds, I was even reading up on the news and the next topic area. I've gotten so much help from my coaches and our alumni. I was trying to make them proud."

In Phoenix last summer, Sovia competed with almost 300 other students in her event and ended up placing in the top 40 advancing to the National Octofinal Round.  This year, after winning her debate event at both league varsity tournaments this year she went on to qualify for both the the State and National Championships in USX.  

After the six preliminary rounds of competition in Iowa, Sovia gave two more speeches in the octofinal rounds, two more in quarters and two more in the semi final rounds.   After 12 speeches in 12 rounds, Sovia earned 8th place at the tournament, just two places shy of being on the final round stage.

“Round 12 was one of the best speeches I’ve ever seen her give,” said one of the Screamin’ Eagles coaches.  “Round 11 was good, but round 12 was out of this world.”   Sovia added, “I really enjoyed being able to make so many people laugh. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten that much of a reaction as I did in semis and I’m so happy to be able to make politics funny and comprehensible.”

Sovia becomes the 9th Screamin’ Eagle to make it to the Semis, the top 14 in America.   This is also the 4th year in a row, GabSpeech has had someone in the Semis or Finals.   

By qualifying for The National Semi-Final round, Sovia has now automatically qualified for the 2025 National Championships next summer. “I’m beyond excited to come back and have even more fun next year,” the junior exclaimed.  “And I’m glad to have opened up another spot (for an additional student to qualify for Nationals in the East LA District) in USX.”

Way to go SOVIA!!!!  We are so proud of you.

Emi speaking at Graduation

Screamin’ Seniors Soar

By Peyton Ong

The Class of 2024 had a remarkable four-year run at Gabrielino.   They were in vittural zoom classes for their entire freshman year.  Their sophomore year saw them compete in speech tournaments entirely outside.  And now, they have graduated in somewhat normal circumstances.

This year’s Screamin’ Eagles Seniors excelled in competition and in the classroom. Ten of our senior Screamin’ Eagles were named 2024 Academic All Americans! These Academic All Americans (AAA’s) have worked hard throughout their high school career to attain a 3.7 cumulative GPA and accumulated over 750 competition points as recognized by the National Speech and Debate Association.  Team Co-Captains Thao Le and Garrison Chan lead the group of honorees along with Ava Doron, Kate Hamamoto, Anson Law, Ashley Lau, Sophia Pu, Sherry Shi, Christopher Torres and Kailey Trinh. 

Fellow Team Co-Captain, Emi Naito, was selected as one of two seniors to at graduation. Naito is a four-year Screamin’ Eagle and has been in the State Finals or Semi-Finals in three different events during her time at Gabrielino (Oratory, Declamation and Original Prose & Poetry). 

Naito was the first GabGrad speaker to ever use a prop.   She brought her houseplant, Steve to the podium with her and compared the growth and challenges the Class of 2024 had to plants.   Her inspirational message of continued growth and what is required for that growth were incredible words for the seniors to take with them into the real world.

The final chapter in the Gabrielino book for three of our seniors will be the National Championships later this month.   Seniors Bryanna Quach, Lindsey Wong and Ashley Lau will be traveling with 15 of their younger teammates to Iowa to compete against the very best speakers in America.

We are incredibly proud of seniors.  You have been an amazing part of our team for so long.   We are really sad to see you go, but so very excited to watch what awesome things you do in the years to come.   Don’t forget your team!!!!  

Congrats Seniors

Knotts Team Picture

Winding Down at Knotts

By Thao Le


After a long, strenuous year, our Gabrielino Screaming Eagles took a day off to celebrate their successful season at he third annual Speech & Debate Day at Knott's Berry Farm. On May 21.  56 of our eagles got on a bus at 8 am to spend a day full of fun and exciting rides. The team was joined with several other teams from all over LA and Orange Counties.

As the school bus pulled up to the entrance, laughter and chatter filled the atmosphere, echoing the shared anticipation of the day ahead. For both students and adults, this trip was more than just a break from school; it was an opportunity to unwind, bond, and create lasting memories.

As the day progressed, many students expressed their satisfaction with the step back from all the final projects and exams being assigned as the school year came to a close. 

 “I really enjoyed taking a day off to hang out with my friends and get to perform in the park. I feel like we were able to scream out all of our stress from school on the roller coasters,” said one of our members. 

As the sun heated up the afternoon, all students filed into the Plaza Theater located in the events center outside of the park to enjoy an afternoon of performances. As the seats began to fill up, students from across each team sat eagerly awaiting for the performances to begin. “I was so excited to see what people were going to perform. Since we had no knowledge of who was going to go, the anticipation was really pumping the adrenaline in me,” stated another member on our team. 

One of our very own captains, Emi Naito, performed her Original Prose and Poetry (OPP) for the crowd that afternoon. After performing at our annual showcase just two weeks ago, Emi was excited to be able to give her speech one final farewell. “I was super ecstatic to be able to perform for such a large audience one last time. I really connected with my speech this year, and I am so glad that I had the opportunity to spread my message to so many people in my last year of speech,” Naito said. 

After a fun trip to Knotts Berry Farm, th

e Screaming Eagles had yet another successful Speech Day. We would like to thank all of our coaches for making all of this happen. Wish our eagles luck as they soar onto Des Moines, Iowa, next month for Nationals!






The Force is Strong At Novice Champs

By Peyton Ong

The newer Gabrielino Speech and Debate team members attended the Southern California Debate League’s Novice/Junior Varsity Speech Championship Tournament on May 3rd and 4th.  The debaters competed at Arcadia High School Friday afternoon and Gabrielino hosted the speech portion on Saturday. It was the fifth tournament Gab has hosted this school year and they made sure everyone understood what may The Fourth be with you, meant.

Novice Champs is an opportunity for Screamin’ Eagles to have fun instead of being at a high-stakes tournament like the state or the national qualifiers. Competitors like Chase Ong say that it’s one of the most relaxing and fun meet that the team attends all year long.

The speech tournament pattern consisted of three preliminary rounds, and a final round consisting of the top seven competitors in each event. As the competition fell on May 4th, parent volunteers designed the theme to revolve around Star Wars. May the force be with all of our boosters and volunteers who gave us their time and energy! 

Novice Champs is the only tournament where finalists are announced in a less traditional manner. Large, colorful banners adorned the catwalks of the buildings surrounding the quad, listing the names of the finalists from each event. 39 of our JV and Novice Screamin’ Eagles broke into their final rounds, including twin siblings Cathryn Abrishami and Andrew Abrishami. 

“Novice Champs was really fun. I know we all worked really hard to get our scripts ready, and I wholeheartedly believe we did a great job. I myself, along with my brother double broke in our two events!”

Gabrielino was the overall tournament champion out of the 20 schools in attendance for the 27th year in a row. 

The Screamin’ Eagles now turn their attention to getting ready for the National Championships next month in Iowa.   Way to go Screamin’ Eagles


Photo by Bianca Lua



Cedric doing informative

Speech Showcases Their Passion, Pride

By Sophia Pu

The Gabrielino High School Speech and Debate team hosted its annual Gabrielino Screamin’ Eagle Showcase on May 10 and 11 in the Gary E. Goodson Theater. The Showcase lasted from 7 to 9 p.m. on both nights and featured eight performances each. Admission was free.


Friday’s setlist featured seniors Zoe Nimpoeno and Christopher Torres, junior Sofia Villagra, and sophomore Cedric Hua before the intermission. After intermission, the team’s seniors, accompanied by parents and other adult supporters, were recognized on stage along with an announcement of their post-graduation plans. There was also a surprise performance from a duo from Roosevelt Elementary School.


“Cedric’s was really funny,” said sophomore Sophia Sanchez. “It was my kind of humor because it was kind of cringe, but at the same time really entertaining. I’m a really big vocals, singing kind of person, so it was a topic I was very interested in.”


The second half of the show had performances from senior Sherry Shi, juniors Josephine Scannell and Kara Mak, senior Nicole Diep, and freshman Oliver Li.


 “Jojo’s was really, I don’t even know how to put it into words,” Sanchez stated. “She got the emotions for the character and for Judy Garland down perfectly. You could genuinely see the raw emotion of the character she was trying to play, and on top of that, her word choices and the movements she was doing all just made sense to the point where I was just really interested the entire time.


Brandon Tsay with Chen Lu

In the first half on Saturday, sophomores Jaslin Situ and Zachary Tang, juniors Chenlu Yang and Marco Cisneros-Farber, and senior Kate Hammamoto performed. After Yang’s speech, which is on the lasting effects of mass shootings, there was a special shoutout to Brandon Tsay, the man who stopped the Monterey Park shooter, who was in the audience Saturday night.


"Brandon Tsay is a huge hero," said one audience member. "His brave actions saved so many lives that night. He has a busy media and appearance schedule yet he came here tonight just to see Chenlu's speech about shootings at public events. The stories these young people share really do reach a great amount of people."


After intermission, 8th grade students on the Jefferson Middle School Speech and Debate team were recognized on stage, along with their coach, Alison Hussar. The second half featured junior Gabriela Sanchez, followed by seniors Emi Naito, Ashley Lau, Bryanna Quach, and Lindsay Wong.


Bryanna Lindsay performing“[Bryanna and Lindsay’s] was very emotional, I even cried,” said junior Kelly Muñoz Rios. “I think it was really impactful because I’m also going through the same situation as well, and it reminded me that I shouldn’t be sad, and I should cherish every moment with my family member that’s going through that.”


The speeches ranged across genres, from humorous, to dramatic, to informative, to advocacy. Some speakers, such as Hua, Mak, Sanchez, and Naito, write their own speeches. Others make existing scripts their own, while Cisneros-Farber and Villagra have only 30 minutes to prepare their speech beforehand. 


“It’s a roller coaster of emotions that you get to feel while watching the performances,” described Torres. “It’s a bunch of stories that you get to watch.”


Showcase was a chance for those not in Speech and Debate – friends, family, faculty, and more – to witness the diversity of Gabrielino Speech and Debate and what it is known for.


“Everybody on the Gab Speech team is very talented and dedicated,” said Cisneros-Farber. “So to be chosen to do Showcase means that you are representing the team and you have to put your best foot forward for the team.”


The event’s purpose was to raise team spirit, inspire prospective team members to join, and provide an overall entertaining, celebratory show.


“Personally, I saw a Showcase and that was a big factor in me staying in speech,” Quach shared. “I think Showcase is a lot more about highlighting all our hard work, not just ourselves, but as a team collective. […] It just shows people that we have stories to tell and to listen to us a little bit.”


For those performing, Showcase is meaningful because it allows them to show friends and family the product of their hard work.


“I practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays, [and now] I could just show my dad what I do in that time,” Mak stated. “I want [middle school spectators] to look at me and be like, ‘Oh, I want to be like her one day’ or like, ‘I want to do the event she does one day.’”


Showcase was also an opportunity for the speakers to spread the messages of their pieces outside of the competition setting, to a larger audience. Many of the students have personal connections to their topic.


“It hits closer to home because it’s something that I’m really passionate about, something that’s about my family,” said Torres, whose state championship-winning Program Oral Interpretation pieces together several texts to convey one message about migrant farmworkers. “I hope people will take away much more respect and appreciation for the work that Latino farmworkers do.”


Many other speakers handle heavy topics like Torres’, including Shi and Yang’s speeches on gun violence and Quach and Wong’s duo on terminal illness. Others are more lighthearted, including Hua’s informative speech on vocals or Naito’s original about a crazy classroom.


“I definitely did feel a connection to the script, especially seeing as it is about sisters and I have a lot of siblings in my family,” said Nimpoeno, who acts out voices and characters in her Humorous Interpretation of the play “She Kills Monsters” by Qui Nguyen. “I hope that [the audience] can see how fun speech can be […] even if you look a little silly doing it."


This article originally appeared in the Gabrielino newspaper, The Tongva Times

Read more of their awesome stories HERE


Last Chance Logo

Last Chance Brings Both Joy and Sadness

Coming off a great showing at the State Championships two weeks before, the Screamin’ Eagles went into the National Speech & Debate Association’s (NSDA) Last Chance National Qualifier with great optimism.  The team had more entries and were more prepared than last year.  It looked like it was going to be another great weekend for the team.


the chance to qualify for nats

There are over 100 local area in-person contests around America where students compete to qualify for the National Championships. The Last Chance Qualifier is the one online tournament for everyone who didn’t qualify at those 100 plus local area in-person tournaments.  

Gabrielino had one of the largest speech entries in the tournament with a full contingent of four entries in almost every speech event.   In that team were State Finalists from earlier in the month, Veena Sundaramoorthy and three-time national qualifiers Kate Hamamoto and Chris Torres.

“It’s pretty daunting, thinking of how you’re trying to be in the top 16 out of over 200 entries,” one member said in preparation for the tournament.

Competitors on the West Coast had to leave school early to get online for the first of the two prelim rounds scheduled for Friday.  Saturday morning brought the first of the two remaining prelims and the two elimination rounds for the top 60 and top 30.   Saturday morning also brought the first glimpse into potential setbacks for the team.  Chris, the newly crowned State Champion in Program Oral Interpretation, had been sick for two days, which led to difficulty finding energy for his performances.

“You go from 200 plus down to 60 in the blink of an eye,” one of the coaches commented.  “Before you even get a chance to celebrate the top 60, you could be out of the tournament.”  When the first elimination round was announced, 17 of the 21 GABSpeech entries continued on, including Veena, Kate and Chris.

As the sun began to set on the Southland, the online tournament released the names of the competitors for the final round, the round of 30.   The top 16 after this round, in every event, would qualify for Nationals.  10 Screamin’ Eagles were listed across the eight different events.  Chris and Veena were named.   Kate was not.   She would not be making her fourth straight trip to the National Championships.  “Kate not being in the top 30 sucks,” one team member said in the team’s squad room.

Not long after the final rounds had ended, a YouTube video scrolled the names of the top 16 in each event.  Gabrielino already had 14 students qualified for the ‘24 Iowa Nationals.  It was only a matter of time before those going would know if any of their teammates would be joining them.

When the video ended, the team had learned they would be taking an additional four more students.   State Finalist and junior, Veena Sundaramoorthy qualified in Program Oral Interp,  Sophomore Kayley Thai made it in Drama.  Fellow sophomores Natalia San Lucas and Carter Mak are going to Nationals in Extemporaneous Speaking.  The State Champ placed 19th and just missed the cutoff.  Chris would not be going to Nationals for the fourth year in a row.

“Obviously, Chris and Kate not making it is devastating,” one of the coaches remarked.  They work so hard.  They have been duo partners all four years in high school.  They are the only duo we have ever had where both duo partners were State Champions in their other event (Chris, POI 2024, Kate, Informative, 2022)  They have both had incredible careers.”

“I’ve got roommates now at Nationals,” junior Sovia Villagra exclaimed.  “Last year we spent almost an hour turning our hotel room upside down looking for Veena’s phone - which was in her backpack the whole time.  Nationals is a great chance to create memories and I guess this year, eat some corn in Iowa.”

The 2024 Nationals Team now is at 18.  The Screamin’ Eagles now have to turn their attention to the next generation as the novice and jv students have their league championship coming up in May.

Congratulations to all the competitors for dealing with all the challenges online tournaments present.  You all did great.  


photos from NSDA

All State Team Members

Gabrielino's All-State Superstars of 2024

By: Hensen Hy

San Gabriel Valley's Gabrielino High School, home to one of the top Speech and Debate teams in California and the 10th largest team in the nation, once again dominated the landscape with their brilliant performances.  The California High School All-State Team recognizes the hard work, dedication and achievement of the top students from throughout the State. 

This year’s team includes 20 GAB Speech and Debate members Leading the team is the 2024 State Champion and senior Christopher Torres.  He is joined by seniors Sherry Shi, Kate Hamamoto, Violet Magallanes, Nick Lee, Nicole Diep, Emi Naito, and Sophia Pu.  They dominated the competition during their last year, and are going out with a bang.

Alongside the seniors, are underclassmen Kara Mak, Cedric Hua, Veena Sundaramoorthy, Oliver Li, Gabby Sachez, Aaron Situ, Rachel Yip, Liliana Simpson-Castaneda, Chenlu Yang, Ximena Mercado, Marco Cisneros-Farber and Sofia Villagra joining Gabrielinos 2024 All-State Team. 

All this could not be possible without the diligent work of the many coaches. Let’s thank all the coaches and congratulate the students on such a big achievement!

Keep Screaming Eagles!


Photo by Bianca Lua and Meggie Nguyen

For more past speech & debate articles, click HERE

The Screamin’ Eagles have consistently placed in the top 13 schools in America and have been THE top program in the southern half of California for 15 of the past 18 years. Only one or two of those schools ahead of us in America are Title 1 schools (low socioeconomic schools). Speech and Debate is an activity greatly favoring rich students and schools.


Donations help us give all 250 students various opportunities throughout the year and not just a select few.


If you would like to support one of the best speech & debate programs in America, please send check or money order to:
Gabrielino High School Speech & Debate Team
1327 S. San Gabriel Blvd.
San Gabriel, CA 91776


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