Benicia Debate Team Coaches Sweep at College Forensics Tournament

Back row, l to r: Sophomore Michael Delgado, Team Coach Tristan Keene
Front row, l to r: Sophomore Gabriel Stockwell, Senior Juhi Yadav, Team Coach Braden Begbie

As the speech and debate season comes to a close, only the best competitors remain in the running, battling to win state and national tournaments. And the Benicia High debate team is home to five of those champions.

Competing for the Diablo Valley College Forensics Team, BHS debate team coaches, alumni Tristan Keene and Braden Begbie, along with senior Juhi Yadav, helped lead DVC to 1st Place Overall Team Sweepstakes at the March 12-15 California community college state tournament.  

DVC debate coach Paul Villa stated, “DVC has been incredibly lucky to work with outstanding debaters Tristan Keene, Juhi Yadav, Branden Ducharme and Braden Begbie, all of whom managed to take home at least one gold medal … with Tristan taking home her second consecutive Bovero Award recognizing her as a top speaker in the state of California. And Juhi managed to secure the top speaker award for parliamentary debate just three weeks after winning DVC its first Northern California Parliamentary debate title in almost two decades.” Yadav is eligible to compete with DVC as part of a forensics course taken there. Ducharme, another Benicia alumni, is not involved with the present BHS Debate Team.

On Wednesday, March 17, the three college debaters were back on the Benicia High campus to prepare Gabriel Stockwell and Michael Delgado for the upcoming Tournament of Champions, a national tournament representing the best high school parliamentary debate teams in the country. Sophomores Stockwell and Delgado secured a wild card place in the April 8-10 tournament for points earned in former debates. The team also earned points as first year competitors, so the Benicia High Debate Team is treading on new competitive ground! 

Aside from the talent of these former and present Benicia High School students, the distinctions are the result of a great deal of hard work and perseverance. “I’ve been astounded by the efforts put in by all of our competitors from Benicia High,” said Villa. And coaches Keene and Begbie have honed their debate skills into effective coaching, as reflected in the success of Stockwell and Delgado in this year’s competitions, culminating with a place in the coveted Tournament of Champions.

All five debaters will be competing at the same time.  Keene, Begbie and Yadav are traveling to St. Louis to compete in national college finals leaving the Benicia High team in the capable hands of alumni and coach emeritus Timothy Knox who, along with team advisor Michele Gaines, started the team five years ago. 

“I knew back when we started the team that Benicia High students could compete with the best of them,” said Gaines proudly. “And it’s so gratifying to see former students achieve so much and return to BHS to work with the next generation of debaters.” 

The team remains grateful for parents, administrators, and the Benicia community that has supported it so generously making all of this possible.

Contact: Michele Gaines

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