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Harper College

Harper’s Speech and Debate Team wins back-to-back championships

Harper Speech and Debate Team wins national championshipFor the second year in a row, the Harper College Speech and Debate Team are National Champions. The team took home the gold medal in the combined speech and debate category in Division II at the 2024 Phi Rho Pi National Tournament, hosted March 31-April 6 in Reno, Nevada.

Phi Rho Pi is the national junior and community college forensic association and honor society, which organizes the annual tournament with 11 individual events. Just like last year, Harper’s Speech and Debate Team won overall gold honors, with members winning multiple individual awards.

Harper students Kaleb Koch, Seth Margolis, Isabella Abarca, Olimpio Messer, Masha Dudinova and Sam Gallo combined to win 13 gold, silver or bronze medals in the individual categories.

Koch, 20, is one of five second-year students who were part of both championship teams. The Barrington native credited the group’s “rare spirit of camaraderie” for the repeat victory.

“We have our own events and it can be easy to get caught up in individual successes, but with this team, everyone is excited to be there for each other,” said Koch, a business major set to graduate in May. “After last year, we became the school to beat for our region and even at nationals. There was not much margin for error. Our success speaks to the resilience and dedication of this team.”

The Speech and Debate Team, which also finished the season as regional and state champions, is coached by faculty members Jeff Przybylo, Margaret Bilos, Bill Lucio and Isaiah Carrington.

“After winning the national championship gold medal last year, I knew we had a chance to do it again,” said Przybylo, who is also a Harper professor. “It was incredible for our coaching staff to watch the season unfold. Back-to-back team gold medals is something I’ve only dreamed about. I never thought in my 28 years here at Harper College we would be able to do it, but these students were very special. We are beyond proud of what they accomplished.”

The team is inviting everyone to celebrate the big victories at 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 23 in Building L, Room L109 on Harper’s campus, 1200 W. Algonquin Road, Palatine. Members of the championship team will present select performances after a meet-and-greet and team toast.

Learn more about the Speech and Debate Team.

Last Updated: 4/23/24