After two days of close and fierce competition in Nashville, Vaikunth Balaji of Ridge High School (NJ) emerged as the winner of the 2016 Montgomery Bell Extemp Round Robin. Balaji survived ten grueling rounds of competition against some of the best extempers in the nation, edging National Points Race leader Justin Graham of Trinity Preparatory School (FL) by one rank. His win marks the first time that a Ridge extemper placed in the top six of the Round Robin and he is the first New Jersey extemper to win the tournament since 2009, when Matt Arons of Millburn High School took home the title.
This year’s Round Robin was the closest in two years, with Balaji, Graham, and third place finisher Marshall Sloane of Milton Academy (MA) all entering the ninth round of the tournament tied for the lead. In the tenth round, Balaji’s picket fencing of his round was better than Graham’s 1-1-2 performance in another section. Sloane was matched up with Balaji and went straight two’s, leaving him three ranks behind Balaji when the tournament concluded.
In many ways, Balaji’s win was a come-from-behind effort as he began the tournament in fifth place after the first round. He maneuvered his way into the top three after round three, while Graham took the lead in the tournament after round five. Graham would hold that position going into the very last round. In fact, Balaji went from third to first after the tenth round and he never led the tournament until the very end.
Sloane was the only non-senior to finish in the top six. The top six also included Saint Mark’s International Extemp winner Micah Cash of Booker T. Washington High School (OK), Glenbrooks winner Marshall Webb of Saint Mary’s Hall (TX), and Daniel Drane of Des Moines Roosevelt High School (IA).
Balaji will receive 150 National Points Race points for his victory since MBA is a second tier tournament. The win is his first major championship and second victory at a Nationals Points Race tournament this season.
Here are the results of the 2016 Montgomery Bell Academy Extemp Round Robin:
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