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2015-2016 School Year
The school year started with amazing news: Hilda’s revised speaker points total left her second in California and first in Western L.A. County! Congratulations!!
Next Catherine won Varsity OI at the prestigious Cal State Fullerton on her first try, Christian Sim picket-fenced Novice Impromptu out of 90 competitors at TCFL and Rachel won the first speech 1st Place in the history of The Webb Schools when she won Varsity Original Prose & Poetry! In the meantime, Amber Park took 3rd in Novice OA & Congress!
Although, prior to Fall 2015, Velásquez Academy (VA) had not featured an official high school competitor outside of Hilda Velásquez-Galvez (who entered this school year as the top scoring speaker in Western Los Angeles County, and number 2 overall in California), the records of success displayed here are principally from the more than two years of coaching that VA’s principal instructor performed for El Camino Real (ECR) Charter High School starting in Fall 2012. Despite having a locally successful program in the 80’s & ’90s, ECR had not had fielded a team with an experienced coach in years. Since success in speech & debate is highly keyed to experience and specialization, it is very unlikely for a new program to fare well immediately or for beginners to have much of a chance against students who’ve refined techniques over two or three previous years. When “Novices” are said to succeed, it is normally against fellow novices. It is extremely rare for a novice to defeat experienced “Varsity” or “Open” champions, let alone qualify for championship tournaments at the State (top six in League) or National (top three in Western or Eastern L.A. County) level. This degree of difficulty is in part why elite success in speech is accorded such respect by college admissions staffs, and considered a flag for grit, logic & confidence.
Nevertheless, despite this component of experience and observation that is essential to the success of all but the most gifted of speakers, Prof. Velasquez was able to coax surprisingly mature and precocious performances from ECR novices. In two months, ECR won Best Novices in League in Original Events, over teams which boasted coaches with decades of experience, dozens of competitors and strong parent involvement. Five months later, two ECR novices qualified for the State Championship and, unbelievably, a novice 12th Grader qualified for the National Championship Tournament, ultimately going on to reach the Semi-Finals and place 16th in the nation in “sudden death” Impromptu out of 519 competitors, despite *never* having won a Varsity trophy in Impromptu before! This was a preposterous triumph, since the inability to do well against local high schools usually spells doom for anyone with pretensions of national success. Adding to the improbability, Feras Morad was only the second ECR entry to Nationals in 45 years.
In year two, the unusual feat of helping novices win against brilliant competitors with two and three year head starts continued, as three more ECR novices qualified for the State Tournament and yet another novice qualified for Nationals (second year in a row for a very rare feat in a highly competitive county). Specifically, two novices took 2nd Place AND 1st Place at the TCFL State Qualifier in Congressional Debate, the latter becoming the first Latino to be “Tri-Counties” Champion. In addition, a sophomore broke the school record in NSDA Speaker Points, become one of the handful in league history to ever amass over 1,000 points before becoming a junior, easily the first Latina to do so. She remains on track to win All-State and All-American honors, as well as eclipse the career points record for a region replete with brilliant public and private schools and student.
In all, the top six speakers (in terms of NSDA Speaker Points) in ECR history were cultivated during the two years Prof. Velasquez presided as head coach, an incontrovertible testament to his prowess as a coach at the high school level. Although he left before the start of 2014-15 to create Velasquez Academy, he continued supporting Hilda Velasquez-Galvez and Emily Mercer via private lessons. Both young ladies qualified for the State Championship Tournament (Emily made State for the second year in a row and became the first ECR student to triple-qualify for State, although one may only compete in one event). Meanwhile, Shawn Haq went on to qualify to Nationals for a second time and also made the National Finals in Congress of the National Catholic Championship Tournament. In addition, he qualified along with Marlon Poroj for the Tournament of Champions in Congressional Debate and co-coached with Marlon brilliant newcomer Gabriel Salazar into making Nationals in Congress, marking the unprecedented third year in a row that ECR had a beginner qualify for Nationals in Congress in the Western L.A. County District. Marlon then parlayed his Semi-Finals experience at the TOC into becoming the first ECR student to ever reach a National Final Round, leading the field in Congressional Debate (Senate) entering Finals at the 2015 National Tournament in Dallas before faltering and settling for 18th overall, the second highest ECR placement ever.