With TFA State now over, it’s safe to say the usual surprises, upsets, and yes, even scandals were present in abundance at this years contest. From 141 Domestic Extempers and 93 Foreign Extempers, two champions ultimately emerged. Katherine Hu (Plano Senior), 2nd in the state points race, picket fenced DX finals to cement her legacy in the TFA history books, and Sarah Lanier (Northland Christian), 9th in the state points race, became FX champion by 3 ranks over Nikhil Ramaswamy (Plano West). We’d like to offer the most sincere congratulations our new state champions as well as wish them the best of luck as they end their seasons.
Let’s take a comprehensive look at the performances of the top 25 in the state points race at TFA state. As a note, spreadsheets of the rooms will be posted separately in the “TFA State Outrounds” post, as will a new points race update.
1 – Kate Fisher (Saint Mary’s)
Kate Fisher entered the TFA state tournament as a favorite to win the FX field. While only a Sophomore, Fisher was not only invited to the MBA after a final at Glenbrooks, but more recently was an exhibition round competitor at the Cap City Round Robin and most notably the Harvard champion–a top tier national tournament. Fisher’s time at TFA state was, however, cut short by what appears to be a “Harvard Curse.” Much like Katherine Hu (Plano Senior) won Harvard her junior year and failed to clear TFA State semis, Fisher finished fourth in her semis room-by far the hardest at the tournament.
2 – Katherine Hu (Plano Senior)
Katherine Hu was the undoubted frontrunner for the DX state championship, and she did not fail to live up to expectations. Finishing finals with a picket fence over her competitors, Hu swept the TFA championship trophy gracefully away from her competitors. A former state finalist, Harvard champion, 2-time MBA invite, 2-time exhibition round competitor at Cap City, and NSDA national finalist, Hu’s track record now finally also includes the title of TFA State Champion. Hu also placed fourth in the scandal-ridden congress finals.
3 – Nikhil Ramaswamy (Plano West)
Nikhil Ramaswamy was another favorite to claim the FX championship spot going into the TFA State tournament. Just a Junior, Ramaswamy was previously a state finalist, NSDA national finalist, Cap City exhibition competitor, MBA invite, and Glenbrooks finalist–making him as good a contender as any for the title. It was, however, by a 3-rank margin that he lost the state championship to Sarah Lanier (Northland Christian) in an incredibly tough finals round, which leaves him another opportunity to secure the title next year. Ramaswamy also was the runner-up in congress finals, behind Spencer Buckner (Lake Travis).
4 – Spencer Buckner (Lake Travis)
Yet another FX favorite in one of the most crowded fields in recent memory, Spencer Buckner’s abrupt rise to prominence on the state and national level in just his senior year propelled him to an extremely competitive spot. An MBA invite, ETOC semifinalist, UT champion and Cap City Round Robin champion, Buckner’s track record this year on the state level signaled tough competition at TFA. Buckner ultimately placed third in FX finals behind Ramaswamy and Lanier on a consistent judge ballot. Buckner did leave the tournament a state champion however, but instead of extemp in congress, where a divided judge ballot gained him victory over perhaps the most tension-ridden congress finals in memory.
5 – Elizabeth Khalilian (Plano West)
After reaching semi-finals at Harvard, nearly making the exhibition round at Cap City, and reaching strong finishes throughout the year, Elizabeth Khalilian was ousted from the TFA State tournament in one of the largest upsets. Statistically in the hardest FX quarterfinals room–which by average points race rank was harder than DX finals, Khalilian received the 4 when a 3 was needed to break–cutting her TFA experience short, when she was a favorite to final. Only a Junior, Khalilian is already a strong contender for the state title next year.
6 – Juliet Ume-Ezeoke (Pflugerville)
Another Harvard semifinalist, and FX champion at UT, Juliet Ume-Ezeoke was another strong contender for at the very least a spot in what was sure to be a contentious FX finals room. And even though she was sick, Ume-Ezeoke still made it to TFA finals, breaking out of a nightmarish semis room, and placed 5th overall at the tournament.
7 – Jackson Freeman (Westwood)
Jackson Freeman officially can claim the title of largest upset at TFA state. Ranked 7th in the points race, Berkeley finalist, Cap City judge, and a contender for DX championship in a relatively light field, Freeman instead was ousted after prelims, facing a fate that can happen to even the best extempers in the state. While surely a relief for the rest of the field, Freeman’s early departure was simply the first of many upsets that are a staple of the State tournament.
8 – Uzair Alpial (Plano West)
A common finalist in Texas’s most prestigious tournaments, semifinalist at Harvard, and somehow denied an invite to Cap City, Uzair Alpial remains one of the state’s most underrated extempers though he is in the points race’s top 10. Alpail’s state run in FX, however, was cut short in another dramatic upset in quarterfinals. Much like fellow Plano West teammate Elizabeth Khalilian, tough quarters competition ultimately knocked Alpial out of the state tournament, but as a Junior, next year provides Alpial a prime chance to contend for the FX state title–one of many from Plano West with that opportunity.
9 – Sarah Lanier (Northland Christian)
With every upset in which a deserving extemper’s state tournament is cut short, there is always an upset in which an underappreciated extemper rises to the occasion. Relatively absent on the circuit this year in terms of attending tournaments–most notably turning down a Cap City invite–Sarah Lanier was still a Berkeley finalist coming into her final TFA State. Rising to the occasion in the state finals round, Lanier beat out Nikhil Ramaswamy, Spencer Buckner, and Juliet Ume-Ezeoke, all higher ranked extempers to claim the state championship in a stunning 3-rank victory.
10 – Nicci Mattey (Saint Mary’s)
Another talented extemper who declined her Cap City invite, Nicci Mattey earned her place in the top 10 of the points race through finaling at UT and strong performances in national outrounds. Her state career landed her in a tough FX semis room where the two speakers that broke ended up receiving the 1 and 2 in the finals room. Luckily for Mattey, being only a Junior means that next year she’ll be able to compete in another crowded field for a finals and championship spot.
11 – Ashwin Desai (Plano West)
Making a gamble by switching from his usual FX to DX, Ashwin Desai ultimately became yet another name in the many upsets that TFA State produced. While seeing strong finishes throughout the year, Desai failed to clear DX prelims–producing an upset on nearly the same scale of Jackson Freeman’s (Westwood). Unlike Freeman, however, Desai will have another shot at an extemp title next year, as he is only a Junior.
12 – Dru Patel (Southlake Carroll)
Former FX state finalist, forever cemented in TFA legacy for a certain joke about ISIS and goats, Dru Patel’s final TFA state tournament was cut short in quarters, winding up as 4th in a room where a 3 was needed to break. While a finalist at the Sunvite earlier this year, and invite to Cap City (which he rejected), Patel wound up as another upset in a tournament of many.
12 – Evan Ortiz (Cy-Fair)
Houston’s highest ranked DX competitor, Cap City invite, and staple of state-level outrounds, Evan Ortiz was ultimately denied state finals by a single place–receiving third in his semifinals room. Just a Junior, we very much expect Ortiz to be in the running for the DX state championship next year.
14 – Sandipan Nath (Plano West)
One of many Plano West FXers, Sandipan Nath fell victim–just as Kate Fisher (Saint Mary’s) did to the second hardest room at the entire TFA tournament–Section 1 of FX semis. Nath, St. Mark’s finalist and Cap City competitor, is like much of this year’s field a junior, and is easily in competition for the state title next year.
14 – Saskia Redford (Saint Mary’s)
Yet another DX prelims upset, Saskia Redford met the same fate of both Jackson Freeman (Westwood) and Ashwin Desai (Plano West)–dropping in prelims of a tournament in which being a finalist was very much a possibility. Still an underclassman, we expect Redford to progress to the outrounds of TFA state in the years to come.
16 – Steven Manning (Anderson)
Another Cap City invitee, Steven Manning, a Junior from Anderson, saw a major upset in his DX quarters room which left him out of a field he ranked 5th in. As a Junior, however, Manning will be a force to watch at next year’s state meet.
17 – Evan Bewersdorf (Lindale)
The only extemper in the top 25 that resides outside a major metropolitan area, Evan Bewersdorf’s strong finishes at the state level–even with a glaring absence from Cap City–has positioned him as a strong competitor in the crowded FX field–a phrase that will continue to be stated, as the FX field this year was unparalleled in its starpower and difficulty. Bewersdorf ultimately landed himself in FX finals, as worthy a competitor as any in the finals room, where he placed 6th in the state.
18 – Danny Lehman (Cy-Creek)
The largest upset in the FX pool, Danny Lehman of Cy-Creek barely missed the cutoff to break from FX prelims. After receiving 6th at the Cap City Round Robin, Lehman looked poised to continue his successes at TFA, but like so many others, these were sadly cut short.
19 – Hannah Liu (Seven Lakes)
Another near-finalist, Hannah Liu’s third place finish in her FX semis room left for a strong finish in a field that claimed many upsets as victims. A constant force in state outrounds, Liu, a Junior, will have another shot next year to make it to finals.
20 – Rene Otero (Hendrickson)
One of only a couple Sophomores already tracking a presence at the state and national level, Rene Otero’s rise as an extemper was continued through TFA state, where he placed 3rd in a semis room with the FX state champion and runner up. While no small feat for any extemper, we’re certain that Otero will continue to be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come.
20 – Ankur Bhagwath (Plano West)
The final Plano West extemper in the top 25, Ankur Bhagwath’s last state tournament was marred with the undue blame of a congress fiasco. In extemp, however, Bhagwath powered through to the semifinals round of FX before he exited the field.
22 – Sean Elsik (La Vernia)
One of only a few San Antonio extempers in the top 25, Sean Elsik, another Cap City competitor, saw success in the DX field until being upset in the semifinals round. Though the highest ranked in the points race in his room, Elsik was unseated in his bid for finals.
23 – Chance Walker (Jack C. Hays)
Austin underdog and UT semifinalist Chance Walker climbed his way through the crowded FX field to semifinals, where a 4th place finish denied him a spot in the final round.
24 – Isaac Martin (Anderson)
The final Austin extemper in the top 25–Isaac Martin of Anderson, was another casualty of the surprisingly brutal break from prelims to quarterfinals, in which many great extempers were cut from the field. We expect to see Martin, a Junior, back next year and another contended in a crowded field.
24 – Jun-Yong Kim (Seven Lakes)
While rounding out the top 25, Jun-Yong Kim, a congressional debater by reputation, maneuvered his was into the DX finals round as one of only two top 25 extempers to make it. Placing 4th, Kim’s shocking absence from the congress top 6 was hopefully somewhat offset by his successes in extemp. As a Junior, we hope to see him back in the finals room next year.
Non-Leaderboard Semifinalists and Finalists:
DX Semifinalists not above mentioned:
Jacqueline Wei (Jasper)
Zac Aikman (Seven Lakes)
Burzin Balsara (Plano Senior)
Hunter Brown (Spring Woods)
Cindy Hao (Plano West)
Byron Xu (Tompkins)
Adrian Beruman (Douglas MacArthur)
Michael Yu (Seven Lakes)
Victoria Huggler (All Saints)
Daniel Edwards (Plano Senior)
FX Semifinalists not above mentioned:
Siddhant Puranik (Tompkins)
Emil Shabanov (Plano Senior)
Anthony Jiang (Jasper)
Jonathan Monday (Friendswood)
Sahaj Singh (Southlake Carroll)
Finalists not above mentioned:
Ellen Wang (Plano West) – 2nd
Shaaswat Singh (Plano West) – 3rd
Jeremiah Menslage (Spring Woods) – 5th
Lekha Sunder (Lamar) – 6th
Ping Rui Toong (Tompkins) – 4th
Congratulations to all those who competed at TFA State!