2016 Montgomery Bell Academy Extemp Round Robin: Sweet Sixteen Preview Part I

mba2010This Saturday and Sunday, sixteen of the nation’s best extemporaneous speakers will compete in Nashville, Tennessee at the eighteenth edition of the Montgomery Bell Academy (MBA) Extemp Round Robin.  This year’s event is different from previous years in that the tournament will take place over two days instead of three and there will be no Exhibition Round this year due to time constraints.  Still, the tournament will feature ten rounds, with each competitor hitting every other competitor twice, and the winner of the tournament will receive 150 points in the National Points Race.

Last season, Josh Wartel of Lake Braddock Secondary School (VA) won by a comfortable margin, becoming the first Virginia extemper to do so, while Phoebe Lin of Plano West Senior High School (TX) captured the Exhibition Round title.  Wartel later went on to win the final round of the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA)’s National Tournament in Dallas, Texas and the competitor that finished second – Brian Anderson of LaRue County High School (KY) – won the International Extemp national championship at that same event.  None of last year’s Exhibition Round participants are returning for this year’s competition, an unusual event for a tournament where an underclassmen typically places in the top five.

This year’s tournament field features the winners of ten 2015-2016 Extemporaneous Speaking Tournament of Champions (TOC) qualifying tournaments, six 2015 state champions, and nine of the top ten competitors in the National Points Race.  In fact, the winners of all of the 2015-2016 National Points Race tournaments are represented.  And six competitors are veterans of the tournament with one of them (Vaikunth Balaji) returning for the third time.

It would be apt to call this year’s competition a “team tournament within a tournament” as three schools – Des Moines Roosevelt High School (IA), Ridge High School (NJ), and Trinity Preparatory School (FL) – each have two extempers in the field.

Today and tomorrow, Extemp Central will provide brief capsules for each of the sixteen extempers invited to participate in this year’s MBA Round Robin.  The capsules have been arranged in alphabetical order.

KEY:  DNA = Did Not Attend; DNC = Did Not Clear (Break); NR = Not Ranked

VAIKUNTH BALAJI

*School:  Ridge High School (Basking Ridge, New Jersey)
*Class:  Senior
*Previous Invites to MBA:  Two (Participant-2014, 2015)
*Top School Finish at MBA:  Participant (Bharat Ayyar – 2006; Peter Vogel – 2011; Vaikunth Balaji – 2014, 2015)
*National Ranking:  8th
*2015 National Points Race Finishes:  Yale-1st; New York City Invitational-7th; George Mason-Quarterfinalist
*National Finishes Last Season:  CFL-Semifinalist; NSDA-Quarterfinalist (IX)
*Notes:  Is the only competitor in this year’s field to have attended three MBA Extemp Round Robins…Finished ninth at last year’s tournament and will seek to move up four more spots to crack the top five, something that no Ridge extemper has ever done…Biggest victory of the season took place in late September when he defeated National Points Race leader Justin Graham by eight ranks to win the Yale Invitational…A victory would put him back into contention for the National Points Race title as he has failed to generate sufficient points since Yale to be much of a factor…Two-time New Jersey state champion in International Extemp…Finished seventh in International Extemp as a sophomore at the 2014 National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) National Tournament.

MICAH CASH

*School:  Booker T. Washington High School (Tulsa, Oklahoma)
*Class:  Senior
*Previous Invites to MBA:  One (Participant-2015)
*Top School Finish at MBA:  5th (Arel Rende – 2013)
*National Ranking:  23rd
*2015 National Points Race Finishes:  St. Mark’s – 1st (IX), 3rd (USX)
*National Finishes Last Season:  CFL-DNA; NSDA-12th (USX)
*Notes:  His appearance marks this third consecutive year that Booker T. Washington High School has been invited to the MBA Extemp Round Robin…Is looking to improve on his performance last year, where he placed tenth…Made a deep run last year at the NSDA National Tournament in United States Extemp, his first time competing in extemp at the tournament after doing Lincoln-Douglas debate the previous year.  If he had managed to finish eleven places higher he would have marked the third consecutive year that a Booker T. Washington extemper would have won the NSDA U.S. Extemp national title…Won the Oklahoma Class 6A United States Extemp state championship last year…His low National Points Race ranking is owed to only attending one National Points Race tournament this year – the St. Mark’s Heart of Texas Invitational.  There, he won International Extemp and was the second-highest ranked extemper at the tournament behind Marshall Webb of Saint Mary’s Hall.

JUSTIN COOPER

*School:  Scarsdale High School (Scarsdale, New York)
*Class:  Senior
*Previous Invites to MBA:  None
*Top School Finish at MBA:  3rd (Aaron Mattis – 2007)
*National Ranking:  6th
*2015 National Points Race Finishes:  George Mason – 3rd; Florida Blue Key – 5th (USX), Semifinalist (IX); Wake Forest – 5th; Extemp TOC – 6th; New York City Invitational – Semifinalist; Yale – Quarterfinalist
*National Finishes Last Season:  CFL-DNA; NSDA-Quarterfinalist (IX)
*Notes:  Represents the eighth bid that Scarsdale High School has received to the MBA Extemp Round Robin and the first since 2011…Has gone from a relative unknown on the national circuit last year to one of the more recognized names due to a string of strong finishes during the fall semester.  His finishes have trended upward from the beginning of the year where he went from finishing near the bottom tier of finals at Wake and being eliminated early at Yale and New York City to being the fifth best extemper at the Florida Blue Key and taking third behind Nathaniel Saffran and Jacob Thompson at George Mason…Consistent national circuit finishes have led to him being ranked sixth in this year’s National Points Race…Was one of three juniors to make the final round at last year’s Extemp TOC at Northwestern University.

DANIEL DRANE

*School:  Des Moines Roosevelt High School (Des Moines, Iowa)
*Class:  Senior
*Previous Invites to MBA:  None
*Top School Finish at MBA:  1st (Lily Nellans – 2012, 2013, 2014)
*National Ranking:  9th
*2015 National Points Race Finishes:  George Mason – 4th; Glenbrooks – 6th; Marshall Speech Spectacular – Semifinalist; Extemp TOC – Quaterfinalist; Florida Blue Key – Quarterfinalist (IX), Quarterfinalist (USX)
*National Finishes Last Season:  CFL – DNA; NSDA-Octofinalist (IX)
*Notes:  One of two Des Moines Roosevelt extempers in this year’s field, marking the third time in Round Robin history that the school has received multiple invites to the tournament…Strong finishes on the national circuit near the end of the fall semester likely earned him a bid into this year’s field.  Took fourth at the George Mason University Patriot Games, finishing behind fellow Round Robin competitors Nathaniel Saffran, Jacob Thompson, and Justin Cooper, and placed sixth at this year’s Glenbrooks…Won the Iowa state championship in International Extemp last season…Represents the last competitor that could theoretically take the lead in the National Points Race were they to win the tournament as any of the competitors ranked from second through ninth can do so depending on where National Points Race leader Justin Graham finishes.

JUSTIN GRAHAM

*School:  Trinity Preparatory School (Winter Park, Florida)
*Class:  Senior
*Previous Invites to MBA:  One (6th – 2015)
*Top School Finish at MBA:  3rd (Miles Saffran – 2014)
*National Ranking:  1st
*2015 National Points Race Finishes:  Florida Blue Key – 1st (IX), 1st (USX); Harvard – 1st; Wake Forest – 1st; New York City Invitational – 2nd; Yale – 2nd; University of Kentucky TOC – 3rd; Glenbrooks – 4th; George Mason – Quarterfinalist, 1st (Round Robin)
*National Finishes Last Season:  CFL-2nd; NSDA-2nd (IX)
*Notes:   Comes into the Round Robin as the highest ranked competitor in the National Points Race for the second consecutive year…Battled hard for the National Points Race title last year with Brian Anderson and Josh Wartel and led until the final moments of the season before Anderson was announced as the NSDA International Extemp final round winner, thereby allowing Anderson to win the competition by fifty points…Also finished the highest of any of the returning competitors at this year’s Round Robin at last year’s tournament…Began the year with two victories and two runner-up finishes in National Points Race events, but quality of finishes slowed by the end of the semester, with his quarter-final elimination at George Mason allowing other competitors to close in on his National Points Race lead. However, he did win the George Mason Round Robin…Is one of two Trinity Preparatory extempers in this year’s field, which is the second consecutive year that Trinity has had multiple competitors in the tournament.  It is also the fourth consecutive year that Trinity has been present at the Round Robin…Has the most National Points Race final round appearances (five) than any other competitor on the circuit this season…Won the United States Extemp championship at last season’s Florida Forensic League (FFL) State Tournament.

KATHERINE HU

*School:  Plano Senior High School (Plano, Texas)
*Class:  Junior
*Previous Invites to MBA:  None
*Top School Finish at MBA:  2nd (Jason Warren – 2000)
*National Ranking:  61st
*2015 National Points Race Finishes:  St. Mark’s – 3rd (IX), Semifinalist (USX)
*National Finishes Last Season:  CFL-DNA; NSDA-DNA
*Notes:  Is unique among all of the other competitors in the field in that she did not attend either national tournament last year in extemporaneous speaking…Currently ranked as the last competitor in the National Points Race among those who have accumulated points, but this is due to the fact that she has competed solely within Texas and not ventured to other National Points Race events this year…Should not be overlooked as she won both halves of the University of Texas-Austin Longhorn Classic in early December.  The tournament featured sizable fields in both International and United States Extemp and the last extemper to win both halves at the Longhorn Classic was two-time NSDA United States Extemp national champion Arel Rende.  This impressive result is helped her receive an invite to this year’s tournament as a junior…Finished sixth at last year’s Texas Forensic Association (TFA) State Tournament in United States Extemp.  Fellow Round Robin competitors Marshall Webb and Neil Patel defeated her in that final round…She is the first Plano Senior extemper to compete at the Round Robin since 2010 and will try to become the first to place within the top five in sixteen years.

SHAWN KANT

*School:  Ridge High School (Basking Ridge, New Jersey)
*Class:  Senior
*Previous Invites to MBA:  None
*Top School Finish at MBA:  Participant (Bharat Ayyar – 2006; Peter Vogel – 2011; Vaikunth Balaji – 2014, 2015)
*National Ranking:  NR
*2015 National Points Race Finishes:  Harvard-2nd
*National Finishes Last Season:  CFL-Semifinalist; NSDA-4th (USX)
*Notes:  Joins teammate Vaikunth Balaji as the two extempers from Ridge High School in this year’s tournament…Unlike other competitors in the field he has not attended a National Points Race tournament this year so he is not ranked nationally…Earned his bid to the field through his strong finishes at both national tournaments last season, which included a semi-final finish at CFL and a fourth place finish in United States Extemp at the NSDA National Tournament…Has proven that he can navigate large tournament fields as indicated by his success at both of last year’s nationals and his runner-up finish to Justin Graham at last year’s Harvard National High School Invitational Forensic Tournament…Is arguably the biggest wild card in the field as he has been overlooked as a national contender due to his lack of circuit travel this season…If he places in the top five it would be the first time that a Ridge extemper has done so in six trips to the Round Robin.

ANDREW LANGFORD

*School:  Lake Highland Preparatory (Orlando, Florida)
*Class:  Junior
*Previous Invites to MBA:  None
*Top School Finish at MBA:  Participant (Varun Akula – 2004)
*National Ranking:  17th
*2015 National Points Race Finishes:  Yale – 3rd; Stanford – 3rd; Florida Blue Key – 5th (IX), Quarterfinalist (USX); Barkley Forum – Quarterfinalist; University of Kentucky TOC – Quarterfinalist
*National Finishes Last Season:  CFL – DNC; NSDA – Octofinalist (IX)
*Notes:  Represents one of the noted non-senior extempers on the revived Florida extemp circuit…Will be the first Lake Highland extemper to compete at the Round Robin in twelve years…Had success in the early part of the season by finishing third at Yale and reaching the final round of International Extemp at the Florida Blue Key, although he did not place high enough in United States Extemp to receive National Points Race credit…Will likely use his MBA experience to refine his skill set for both national tournaments, as he missed the break at CFL Nationals and made an early exit from International Extemp at last year’s NSDA Nationals.  He entered both national tournaments in the top twenty-five of the National Points Race…Finished runner-up to Noah Wexler of Nova High School in International Extemp at the Florida Forensic League (FFL) State Tournament last season…Was a noted competitor on the national circuit last year after finishing fourth at the Glenbrooks (he did not break at this year’s event).

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  1. 2016 Montgomery Bell Academy Extemp Round Robin: Sweet Sixteen Preview Part II | Extemp Central - December 31, 2015

    […] Here is the second part of our participant capsules for this year’s Montgomery Bell Extemp Round Robin in Nashville, Tennessee.  Check back tomorrow for a poll, where you can cast your vote for who you think will win this year’s tournament!  If you missed part I of this preview, you can read it here. […]

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