Hotchkiss Debaters Compete at Worlds; Meilan Antonucci '24 Earns Fourth Place
Hotchkiss Debate at Worlds 2024

From left: Ben Who ’24, Isaiah Stephens ’25, Meilan Antonucci ’24, and Maadhavan Prasanna ’25

Four members of the Hotchkiss Speech and Debate team traveled to Canberra, Australia, to participate in the World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championship in April. Meilan Antonucci ’24 was the fourth overall speaker at the competition and the top American speaker. Meilan’s fourth place overall finish was the highest for a Hotchkiss speaker in almost 20 years at this event.

The event, hosted by the Canberra Girls Grammar School, featured 120 students from around the world competing in four events over six days. Each participant had to practice a reading, write and memorize a speech, and prepare for two extemporaneous events. For the four Hotchkiss debaters, it was the culmination of a year of hard work and dedication in debating and public speaking competitions in the DANEIS league and the international IISPSC tournament. 

Co-captains Ben Who ’24 and Meilan participated in Worlds for the second time, having traveled to Durban, South Africa, last spring. This year they were joined by Isaiah Stephens ’25 and Maadhavan Prasanna ’25. All four performed very well in the two preliminary rounds of the competition. Ben advanced to the finals in Parliamentary Debate, Isaiah made the finals in Parliamentary Debate and Persuasive Speaking, and Meilan made the finals in three of the four events: Parliamentary Debate, Persuasive Speaking, and Impromptu. In addition to his three finals, Meilan was the top speaker in the Parliamentary Debate preliminaries and came in sixth in the Impromptu preliminaries.  

"The main difference between my first and second trips to WIDPSC was the amount of confidence I carried into the tournament. Coming off a very successful year in New England, I had more faith in myself and my preparation than I did the year before. Also, I knew how to prepare this time around and spent much more time working with coaches to perfect the two prepared categories," said Meilan, who will study political theory and constitutional democracy at Michigan State University. "Although finishing fourth at Worlds was the result of a single tournament, it feels as if it has been four years in the making. Waking up early on Sundays and hustling from sports practice to debate practice made my finish possible. It makes me tremendously proud that I could represent the School so well, and I'm grateful for all of the time and resources that the School has given me."

Meilan thanked David Conti P'18,'22, head of the Classical and Modern Languages Department and instructor in classics, and Thomas Fisher, instructor in history, philosophy, religion and the Hersey Scholars Program, "for all the time and energy they give to the team. Without them coaching us multiple nights per week and accompanying us on trips around the world, none of our success would be possible."

Conti said, "The experience of traveling to Australia and competing with accomplished debaters from more than a dozen countries was exciting and instructive for all of the members of the Hotchkiss team. They also had a chance to see Canberra, the capital of Australia. Maadhavan and Isaiah are already thinking about how they can qualify for Worlds next spring."

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