Speech & Debate
Jared Padalecki
2020 National Speech & Debate Spokesperson

Eagle in Tree

Three Screamin’ Eagles Auto Qualify For State Championships

By Peyton Ong

Spring Varsity is often one of the most high-stakes tournaments of the year, as it is the last opportunity for all competitors to “gain legs” and automatically qualify for the State Tournament. On January 27th, the Gabrielino Eagles arrived at Montebello High School with determination written on their faces. Fifteen team members already had one “leg” from the Fall Varsity tournament in December. Each one would require a ranking of first or second in their event to bypass the State Qualifying tournament. 

Emi Naito (Team Co-Captain, Original Prose and Poetry) entered the tournament with anticipation, as she won first place during Fall Varsity and was aiming for her second leg. “For starters, since people work on their speeches throughout the school year, the competition is much greater compared to the Fall Varsity tournament”, says Naito. “During the tournament, that realization hit and it was very nerve-wracking, but also very impressive to see how much people can improve over just a few months.”

Varsity Kate Hamamoto entered her Expository Speaking round with “a good wake up call because in the first round I wasn’t very awake, having a day off before a tournament threw me off a little bit.” Hamamoto explained. “Spring Varsity was a different type of tournament because the inclusion of semifinals can throw people off, but we were adapting pretty well. I was excited for everyone that had a leg and cheering them on during the entire tournament.”

Co-Captain Kailey Trinh also expressed excitement for her teammates during the tournament. “It was really fun seeing new speeches especially in HI. I got inspiration after watching them. Although the competition was tough, it was overall a good tournament.” 

Hamamoto continued to elaborate on the aftermath of the day. “Eagles were more motivated to perform. Given our results from Spring Varsity, we know what we have to work on for State Quals.”

The Screamin’ Eagles had three team members successfully get their second leg! Congratulations to: Sherry Shi (Varsity Original Interpretation), Emi Naito (Team Captain, Varsity Original Prose and Poetry), and Christopher Torres (Varsity Program Oral Interpretation)! Eagles are still locked in as they continue to prepare for the State Quals tournament, taking place on February 24th.



debate team


Spring Debate in the Cold

By Peyton Ong


Despite the cold cloudy weather, the spring season for speech and debate has arrived for the Gabrielino Eagles. The first debate tournament of 2024, The Southern California Debate League’s Spring Debate Tournament took place on January 20th at Schurr High School, and Screamin’ Eagles woke up at 6 a.m. to pouring rain. “The tournament was super fun, and we had a blast when it wasn't super cold or pouring on us.” Said Marco Cisneros-Farber (Junior, Varsity Debater). “Luckily, most of the rain hit when we were in rounds, but we still had to dress warm!”

Freshman Cathryn Abrishami entered her first Spring Debate excitedly: “Round through round I learned more and more from my opponents, some information which I could use in my next round. I felt confident going into each round with this newfound information and even point of view. After all, while winning is fun, learning is, and should always be the main goal.”

Varsity Debater Sophia Villagra says “I was excited going into the first round because the topic was super interesting,” says Villagra. “I got to learn a lot about the Middle East, and I was also running an international relations theory that was fun to talk about and explain.”

Senior Sophia Pu (Varsity) explained, “I don't get too nervous going into competition anymore, but there was a level of anticipation about how far our preparation would take us and a really strong drive to do well.” Pu would place 5th in Public Forum along with Cisneros-Farber as debate partners. 

For Sofia Villagra, the Spring Debate was a chance to auto-qualify, or “gain legs”, for the State Championship Tournament. Villagra had taken home second place during Fall Debate, and winning first in this tournament would guarantee her a spot at the state meet in April.. When it comes to strategy, Villagra said “I think the biggest thing I took away was that I need to chill... the more I chill and focus on being conversational and real, the more fun it is and the better I can think of arguments.” 

A hard decision had to be made as the Screamin’ Eagles moved into their final rounds. “There are 4 preliminary rounds at Spring Debate, the top 8 debaters break to a finals seeded final round.,” explains Aaron Situ (Varsity Debater, Junior).  

The league employs a hard pairing with the number 1 seed facing number 4 (2 vs 3, 5 vs 8, 5 vs 6).  Sophia and Aaron were paired against each other.

Situ explained, “knowing that Sofia had a 2nd place leg from Fall Debate, we, as a team, wanted to maximize her chances of getting the 1st place leg to auto-qualify to state. Therefore, instead of having us debate the final round, it was collectively decided that we would do a walk-over. Put simply, I ‘forfeited’ the round and had all three judges give the winning ballot to Sofia. Had we debated, there would be the possibility of me winning, and thus not giving Sofia any chance of auto-qualification.”

Villagra came away with first place in this debate, meaning she is heading straight for the State Championships. Congratulations Sofia!

Next for Eagle Debaters comes State Quals Debate, the tournament that determines whether or not a competitor will join Villagra at the State Speech and Debate Championships in Fresno later this spring.. “From here on out, we're going to be working on cross-examinations, identifying the key issues in the debate, and getting work done on time,” explained Pu. “I'm really grateful that everyone seems to want to improve after Spring Varsity, which as an event leader, is all I can ask for.”

Congratulations to Sofia Villagra (1st Place, League Debate), Aaron Situ (4th Place, League Debate), Sophia Pu & Marco Cisneros-Farber (5th Place, Public Forum), Anson Law & Jayden Phung (9th Place, Public Forum), and all of our Eagles who debated in this tournament! The Gabrielino Speech team now faces Spring Varisty on January 27th, another opportunity for team members to gain legs. 

team photo

Speech Kicks Off the Holidays At Fall Varsity

By Peyton Ong

Tis the season of hot chocolate, long drives down brightly-lit streets, and finals! As the holidays quickly approach, Gabrielino Eagles competed in Southern California Speech League’s Fall Varsity tournament at Montebello High School. 

Fall Varsity is one of the bigger tournaments of the season, with 545 individual entries from 20 schools. The pressure was felt by JV member and senior Alexa Pedroza. “There came a time throughout the tournament that I was unmotivated to continue competing and doubted myself on how good/bad I performed.” However, Pedroza pushed through the adversity and continued to perform her best. “The way I overcame these issues was by going over my speech with my event leaders and hearing their critiques. I also got a motivational speech from one of my event's alumni and they helped me change the negative mindset I was carrying.”Dec event students

The tournament was bittersweet for senior and varsity team member Ashley Lau, as this would be her last time competing at Fall Varsity. “We were at Montebello High School last year for Fall Varsity too, so there's definitely some feelings of familiarity and nostalgia because as a senior this year it feels like everything is really coming to an end.” 

Another senior, Sherry Shi (Varsity) also spoke about the feelings that accompanied her last Fall Varsity performance. “The realization that it was my last ever Fall Varsity hit me the night before the tournament. So I didn’t stress too much about perfecting every little technical thing but rather putting passion into my speech and spreading a message that matters to me.”

Passion for their topics is a common theme seen among the team, as Shi also attributes her performance energy and enthusiasm to the personal significance of her topic. “This year, I’m really glad I got to do a speech on an issue that means a lot to me—gun violence and the lack of government action to prevent it. Whether it's restoring hope that change is possible, inspiring people to take action, or simply spreading awareness, I hope that my performances leave an impact on people and show novices that their voice matters.”

Lau also commented on the personal ties to her performance; “My topic this year for OO is something I'm passionate about since it's something I also struggle with, which is wanting to be recognized for what we do. Energy and volume require no talent, so going out and competing with energy and volume and seeing it bring results is team morning warm upsomething I'm very proud of.” 

Even through the bittersweetness of the tournament, Lau notes her pride in seeing her younger peers compete. “Watching Ms. Kara Mak was really fulfilling. We both joined ASB and Speech the same year and to watch her grow as not only a speaker but as a person these 3 years makes me sad that us seniors are going to be leaving behind the underclassman. But I’m also hopeful about the future of the speech team. From Gabx3 to Fall Varsity, I've hit her in the finals every tourney this year and every time I watch her I still feel her passion and love for speech.”

Gabrielino Eagles performed according to the typical tournament schedule, consisting of three preliminary rounds, followed by one final round of the top eight competitors in that event. The Gabrielino Speech Team closed out 2023 with 43 Eagles in the final rounds of their respective events, 7 of whom came home as champions. Congratulations to our champions; Sherry Shi, Bryanna Quach, Kyle Tang, Karina Vargas, Isaac Chan, Emi Naito, and Christopher Torres! 

This wraps up the speech year for the Eagles, and after returning from winter break (and recovering from finals), the team will be hard at work preparing for their tournaments in the spring. 





Novice and JV Speakers Give Thanks

By Peyton Ong


The Gabrielino Speech team started their Thanksgiving break with a bang, almost sweeping the 2023 Fall Novice tournament. Novices and JV Eagles, first or second-year team members, had a chance to compete against other schools at their experience level. Among the over 300 competitors our newest Screamin’ Eagles walked away from the tournament with champions in nine out of fourteen events!

Valarie Leung (Sophmore, JV) and Cedric Hua (Sophmore, JV), headed to a classroom for their first expository (EXPOS) round of the day. “My first round felt a little awkward as I hadn't performed my Expos in front of an audience since GABGABGAB.” Says Hua. “It was nice when people laughed at my jokes. I think that I had a decent amount of energy during the round, though I could definitely improve my pacing and flow.”


Leung expressed the same sentiments. “My first round was just getting the hand of performing. Throughout the tournam

ent, I warm up and become more confident over time. In my performances at Fall Novice, I think I was good with my ti

ming and my volume.”


Incredible parents and boosters operated the concessions tables, serving food and drinks to the competitors. A short period of rain caused many to take cover by the gym, where among the food being sold were autumn critter stickers to commemorate the tournament. 

nana speaking

For JV Humorous Interpretation competitors Zachary Tang and

Chase Ong (Sophomores), the third round of the day was the smoothest performance-wise and the most energetic. Due to space conflicts, starting times needed to be staggered so a room could be used twice. Fall Novice ran longer than usual because of this, and some competitors began to lose their spark. However, the opposite was true for Ong. “The third round of any tournament is always the hardest but most rewarding. It allows you to go all-out and use all of your energy to push through the last prelim round.”


Even though energy was running low towards the end of the day, cheers erupted throughout the crowd of competitors as tournament champions were announced. Congratulations to Shawn Cheng, Chayse Hoang, Lindsay Wong, Melinda Do, Andrew Lai, Cedric Hua, Jennifer Quach, Jolie Wang, Owen Dowell, Luke Christiensen, Natalia San Lucas, Elyse Luo, Jordan Luu, and Yulia Wong!

After returning from Thanksgiving break, our Screamin’ Eagles are rested and ready to tackle Fall Varsity, taking place in early December. 


photos by Meggie Nguyen and Peyton Ong





talking to walls

photo by Mark Christensen


Eagles Eclipse Competition at GabGabGab

By Peyton Ong


On October 14th, GabSpeech hosted the 2023 Gabrielino Screamin’ Eagles Invitational Speech Tournament, or GAB GAB GAB for short. Most of the team arrived around 7:30 a.m., but dedicated Eagles, such as Co-Captain Garrison Chan (senior), arrived early to set up the campus for the 19 other schools that would soon be arriving. Garrison’s fellow Team Captain, Thao Le, could also be spotted helping Gab’s female competitors; armed with a can of hairspray and a stack of bobby pins, braiding many of the traditional “hair crowns” Eagles wear at every speech tournament. 

The tournament took place during a “ring of fire” solar eclipse, creating odd light and crescent-shaped shadows in its wake. When they weren’t busy setting up their visual aides, rehearsing introductory hooks for exempt, or practicing their popping and blocking, team members were able to view the solar event in between rounds. Competitors in Informative Speaking were gifted a bag containing blackout glasses, which they shared with their peers to allow everyone to view the eclipse.

First rounds are often considered the most flawed of the day, as GHS warms up and gets out their nervousness. However, Theresa Wong (senior) didn’t let tournament jitters get to her. “When we were debriefing with the other OI [Declamation] people, a lot of them were really nervous [about their first round], but my first tournament ever was Spring Varsity, and this seemed easy compared to it. I was prepared and memorized and knew what I was doing, and I came in with the mindset of doing well.”

In between rounds, all schools could refuel at the concessions table, run by the Gabrielino Speech Boosters, parents, and members of Interact Club. Thank you to all our volunteers for helping make the day run smoothly! 

After competing in his second round of Novice HI (Beginner Humorous Interpretation), freshman Hodrain Liu felt “I did good because I was able to make my characters really expressive, and the nervousness of the first round was gone. I was also a lot more awake during my second round.” Many other Eagles felt the same way, and their second rounds were substantially better than their previous ones. Perhaps the solar phenomena served as good luck, as the eclipse peaked around this time. 

Third rounds went by in a flash, and GabSpeech eagerly awaited the release of the lists of finalists in each round. It had been almost six hours since the beginning of the tournament, and many competitors were tired after putting out their best performances. Crocs and Birkenstocks were not uncommon sights throughout the school. However, there was an exponential spike in energy and volume as the finalists for each round were informed of their status. Cheers around campus from finalists and their peers. Almost every competitor joined the scramble of people rushing to final rounds, as spectators and performers.

Finalists Jaslin Situ & Zachary Tang (Varsity Duo Interpretation, sophomores) felt the pressure of being surrounded by the best competitors of their event but pushed through the nervousness and gave their best performance of the day. Gabrielino duos Oliver Le & Nicole Diep (freshman, senior), Thao Le & Allyson Lau (seniors), Lindsay Wong & Melinda Do, and Jaslin & Zachary spent a couple of moments reflecting on their round, before returning to the Gabrielino tables outside to wait for awards.

It was clear that rings weren’t the only things on fire at the competition; Gabrielino entered the 22-event competition with 19 other schools, and walked away with 12 champions! Congratulations to Kaylyn Thai, Nicole Diep, Oliver Li, Elyse Luo, Rachel Yip, Karina Vargas, Archie Lai, Natalia San Lucas, Kara Mak, Nox Leunberger, Andrew Lai, and Chris Torres on winning first place in their event, and a job well done to every Eagle who competed! 

Gab continues to work hard and improve their speeches to prepare for the first league tournament of the year, Fall Debate (or “Fallhambra”) occurring in early November.





Icebreaker TeamIcebreak-ARG Is a Swashbuckling Success

by Peyton Ong


Friendships were born, memories were made, and the speech room looks like it got hit by a hurricane. It must be Icebreaker time! 

On September 16th, 2023, the annual Icebreaker tournament was held at Gabrielino High School. As always, Icebreaker marks the beginning of speech season. Novices and experienced members of the team partner up and spend the day competing in a tournament of three rounds: Improvisational Duo, Spontaneous Argument (SPAR), and Character SPAR.



Character SPAR seems to be the favorite category performed by Gabrielino Students. JV Screamin’ Eagle Ryan Leung and Novice Houdrain Liu enjoyed the acting that was necessary for the debate. “Icebreaker was really fun and welcoming to the novices.” Leung said. Liu says that “Icebreaker was entertaining, and a good way to introduce people to speech, plus it’s a way to learn from and about your opponents.”

Again this year, the pirates was the theme leading up to the annual National Talk Like A Pirate Day on September 19th.  


Amongst the five schools at the competition (Arcadia High, San Marino High, Crescenta Valley High, Alhambra High, and Gabrielino) and about 400 competitors, senior varsity member Kaylyn Thai and her partner sophomore newcomer, Archibald Lai, were the top award winning duo team from Gabrielino.

The Icebreaker was, once again, a great start to a long and exciting speech and debate year.





Sunny D Gives 100% as National Semi-Finalist

Nicknames are certainly a part of the Gabrielino Speech and Debate History.   There may not have ever been one that has had more broad appeal than “Sunny D”.  Sure, they named a beverage after him, but having your nickname called at your school’s senior awards night and at the National Speech and Debate Championships is much greater than getting zero royalties from an orange drink that contains less than 1% orange juice.

After his four years as a huge part of GabSpeech, Gabriel “Sunny D” Sundaramoorthy has left an incredible mark that will last for generations to come.

During the online covid experience, Sunny D once entered two different tournaments, in two different states on the same day.  He performed 18 speeches on one Saturday in November.  He even gave one of his debate speeches in one state during his extemp prep time in another state.

The lore surrounding Sunny only grewa when everyone came back from quarantine.  Rumor has it that Sunny D once accepted the School of Excellence Trophy for Gabrielino.

Sunny AwardSome say, Sunny D can do it all.   Some disagree.  “My sister says I can’t do interp,” Sunny jokes.  “But I talk about Joe Biden and Donald Trump.  Those two characters are just like two old guys arguing at the local donut shop at 7am.  That’s humorous interp right there.”

It is only fitting that Sunny D was the farthest advancing Screamin’ Eagle at the 2023 National Speech and Debate Association National Championships.   After giving 12 speeches, he fell just short of The Finals and was awarded 13th place in all of America in United States Extemporaneous Speaking.  He became the 12th entry from Gabrielino in Extemp to make it to the National Semi-Final round.

Since there have been 11 others from GabSpeech who have made it to the Semis of Extemp, it must not be that difficult.  Think about this:  Sunny was one of the three National Qualifiers this year from the East Los Angeles County District out of about 50 or so students who compete locally.   There are over 100 districts across America.  Each one sends between 1 to 4 students.  There were almost 300 students in Sunny’s event who had qualified for the Championships.  Sunny placed higher than all but 12 of them.  

The three-time National Qualifier took his previous experiences at Nats to make his mark this year.  “I didn’t make it past prelims the first two times.” the senior and GabSpeech co-captain stated.  “ So I worked really hard and had great coaches and teammates helping me.  This week has been a great experience and a fun ride to semis.  I’m sad to have my speech career come to an end but I’m thrilled it happened this way surrounded by my speech family.”

One of the Screamin’ Eagles coaching staff said of Sunny, “he has been an excellent captain and a fantastic competitor.   He loves this team.  There will be a huge hole when we get to the first day of school and Sunny and his fellow captains aren’t in my office.  It’ll be tough.” 

Sunny D may not have quite the lore of Billy The Kid or Paul Buyon - yet.  But the history of The Screamin’ Eagles will not be complete without the stories of Gabriel “Sunny D” Sundaramoorthy: The guy who gives 100% effort, not the drink that only gives you 1% juice.

Congrats National Semi-Finalist Sunny D



Rachel giving speech

Seniors Speak at Graduation

It’s good to get back to normal.   Once again, the Garielino graduation was held, in person, at the world famous Santa Anita Racetrack.  And once again, the Screamin’ Eagles seniors were giving speeches at the ceremony.  Very normal, but very special.

With a backdrop of the incredible San Gabriel Mountains, the Screamin’ Eagles led their

Sunny Speech

classmates in their final high school event.

Team Co-Captain Gabriel “Sunny D” Sundaramoorthy gave one of the most memorable Flag Salute Speeches in recent years.  The United States flag has been around for well over 200 years and Sunny

D paid exceptional tribute to such an integral part of the American education system.

Standing just a few feet from the actual racetrack that has seen breathtaking performances from legendary horses, GabSpeech member Rachel Young used her time behind the podium to link the incredibly unique four years of the Class of 2023’s high school journey to the four turns at Santa Anita. 


A journey that started out normal and went to zoom school back to hybrid and then slowly back to normal has been an one of a kind experience for everyone involved.  The Screamin’ Eagles seniors and the rest of their class faced the challenges and changes of the world with great pride and honor.  And they upheld past traditions and created new ones.

Great job seniors.   We wish you all the best!!!!  

Photos by Mr. Yuhadi Sundaramoorthy and Mrs. Sharon Liu





For more past speech stories, 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


Payable to: Gabrielino HS Speech Team

Follow us on Instagram