Two local students took home first-place prizes in the nation's largest speech and debate competition in Indianapolis last week.
Gabe Bronshteyn, 17, a Monte Vista High School student from Danville, and Ananth Cherukupally, 16, a Dougherty Valley High School student from San Ramon, won their events at the National Forensic League National Speech and Debate Tournament.
About 3,200 students from 970 schools from around the country and overseas competed in 10 main events June 10-15 in Indianapolis.
"The NFL Nationals is the largest academic competition in the country for high school students," said Lexy Green, chairwoman of the San Francisco Bay National Forensic League District. "It's the hyper-nerd Olympics."
The events included: policy debate, congressional debate, public forum debate, Lincoln Douglas debate, oratory, U.S. extemporaneous speaking, international extemporaneous speaking, humorous, dramatic, and duo interpretation. Judges rated the competitors as they moved up through the elimination rounds.
Students from Bay Area schools finished in the top two spots in the four debate events and had strong showings in several others.
"It is unprecedented for one area of the country to sweep the debate events the way the San Francisco Bay Area did in this year's national championship," Green said.
Bronshteyn, a three-year veteran of the competition, defeated his opponent to win the Lincoln Douglas debate, which
The win earned him a $5,000 scholarship from the Lincoln Financial Group, which sponsored the event. Bronshteyn will be attending Pomona College in the fall.
Cherukupally, who will be a senior next school year, won first place in the congressional debate category. His topics included trade tariffs with China, immigration reform and direct elections replacing the Electoral College in Presidential elections. Four hundred competitors took part in several rounds in the event that mocked an actual Congressional debate. The final 24 competitors gave three-minute speeches before being cross-examined.
"The most interesting topic was illegal immigration reform," Cherukupally said. "Everyone who was debating that got much more passionate."
Cherukupally said he stood on a stage in front of a crowd of thousands when he was announced the winner. "It was surreal," he said. "It took me about 30 seconds for it to sink in."
He received a $5,000 scholarship from Lincoln Financial Group, an additional $1,000 scholarship from the Stennis Center, "and a pretty awesome trophy," he said.
Cherukupally said when he was a freshman he took a debate class so he could beat his father in debates and found public speaking to be a lot of fun. "The first time I did it, it was nerve-racking," he said. "Now, it's like second nature."
But he still can't beat his mom and dad in debates, he added.
Contact Jason Sweeney at 925-847-2123. Follow him at Twitter.com/Jason_Sweeney.
Bronshteyn debate: http://new.livestream.com/nflnats/nflnats/videos/1508627
Cherukupally award announcement: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_t4d3iNpEQ