Two-peat: Askari-Wheaton win state debate (again)

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Reprinted with permission from Tom Fones

Junior Adnan Askari and senior Sarah Wheaton hold the 2017 State Debate trophy, their second, in the MSHSL competition. knowing that we could still be good enough to meet [that expectation] feels good,” Wheaton said.

Two state tournaments down and one national tournament to go, the Askari-Wheaton public forum debate partnership recently reclaimed the MSHSL state championship title — a feat unachieved in the past 30 years of Minnesota high school debate as a whole.

Going into this year’s state tournament, which happened from Jan. 14-15,  junior Adnan Askari and senior Sarah Wheaton faced more pressure than their previous appearance.

“After we won last year everybody expected us to do really well again and they were preparing specifically for us. So, knowing that we could still be good enough to meet [that expectation] feels good,” Wheaton said.

Both Wheaton and Askari agree that this year’s win was more exceptional than their last.

There was just a level of comfort there that wasn’t last year so we worked together more.”

— senior Sarah Wheaton

“I felt like last year we won because it was kind of a fluke: the bracket kind of lined itself up conveniently…this year, it definitely felt like we were one of the best teams there and we earned the victory this time,” Askari said.

In addition to prepared opponents, Askari-Wheaton battled illness as well.

“I was pretty exhausted. I remember having a big box of tissues that I brought with me everywhere and I kept blowing my nose. I had cough drops in my backpack. It was definitely a struggle,” Askari said, “I had to make a conscious effort to try and get better as fast as I could.”

Fighting tooth and nail, the duo just made the cut for the quarterfinals following preliminaries the day before, entering Day Two as the seventh seed out of eight teams.

“We both missed a lot of school in the week leading up to it so that sort of took the pressure off a little bit in a way because we were both like ‘we just…need to get through this’ though the first day was still a little bit rough,” Wheaton said.

I was pretty exhausted. I remember having a big box of tissues that I brought with me everywhere and I kept blowing my nose.”

— junior Adnan Askari

Nonetheless, Askari-Wheaton feel that they were a much stronger team than they had been before.

“We’ve been partners for longer now. Last year, the state tournament was our second official tournament, maybe third, together as partners so I think there was just a level of comfort there that wasn’t last year so we worked together more,” Wheaton said.

In the end, they prevailed against both unlikely odds and disease, winning their second state title for the St. Paul Academy & Summit School public forum debate team.

The two will compete in their last debate tournament together this summer in Birmingham, Alabama at the national tournament.

As for the future, Wheaton will likely “stay involved with debate or forensics in some form” in college, while Askari, jokingly, will “be sad and [do] Lincoln-Douglas debate.”