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Barlow Debate Team Wins Season Opener

EASTON, Conn. — Joel Barlow High School took the first-place varsity trophy home from last weekend's debate on the death penalty.

The competition at Stamford’s Academy of Information Technology & Engineering was one of the best-attended tournaments in the history of the Connecticut Debate Association, with 232 debaters from 22 public, parochial and private schools participating. Joel Barlow High School won five trophies, continuing a streak that has brought the team three state championship titles in the past four years.

It was the first varsity outing for Barlow's Nicolo Marzaro and Brendan Coppinger, who went undefeated through three preliminary rounds, arguing both sides of whether to keep capital punishment on the books in Connecticut.

In the final round, Coppinger and Marzaro quickly found their rhythm, facing down Glastonbury. In cross-examination, Coppinger stumped his opponents into silence by going straight to the heart of the matter by asking, "What do you do if you find out that you have executed someone who was actually innocent?"

Countering the objection that prisoners lead lives of comfort and leisure, Marzaro pointed out that it would be easy to reform prison to make it more unpleasant. "We can take away baseball, television and phone privileges from the worst offenders," he said. "OK, maybe not Jenga, but you can still get retribution without having the death penalty."

The pair’s win continues a distinguished career that began last year, when as first-year novices, they became the first pair in Barlow history to go undefeated in all regular season tournaments.

Also honored were senior Alex Cheu and sophomore Daanish Siddiqi. The pair went undefeated, earning the fourth-place varsity team award. This was Cheu's third career trophy.

Barlow veterans dominated the varsity field, with nine finishing among the top 30 speakers. Marzaro led the pack, earning the third-place varsity speaker award. Others in the top 30 included Cheu, Coppinger, Siddiqi, senior David Kang, junior Cormac Cummiskey, senior Sam Torchio, junior Ben Lewson and senior Henry Knight.

Strong 2-1 performances were turned in by many veterans, including senior co-captains Knight and Torchio, seniors Emma Tower and Morgan Jordan, Kang, Matt DiPalma, Lewson and Stephen Tschudi. Sophomore Brendan O'Connor and junior Cooper D'Agostino managed to beat Pomperaug High School in Round 2 and Cooper got a nearly-perfect 29 in Round 2.

Barlow will debate again Nov. 12 and looks forward to hosting its fifth annual tournament Dec. 10.

Randall Smith is a social studies teacher and debate coach at Joel Barlow High School.

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