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Lane Tech debater 1st ever to win back-to-back national titles, team 1st to win 3

Lane Tech College Prep students Ariana Collazo (center) and Aysia Grey (right) show off the trophies they won at the Urban National Debate Championships with coach Andy Fine (left). | Provided /Chicago Debates

When Lane Tech senior Ariana Collazo clinched her second straight title at the Urban Debate National Championship, it was the first time in history that any student in the nation had accomplished that feat.

Now the 17-year-old from Belmont Cragin plans to head to DePaul University to major in African American studies — and said she could become a debate coach someday.

“I didn’t expect this to happen,” Collazo said Wednesday. “It proved how far I’ve come in all my years of debate. I was just really shocked and proud that I was able to do that.”

Collazo wasn’t the only one who made history at the tournament held at Georgetown University on April 12-14.

The win was also the third time Lane Tech has taken home the title, making the school the winningest team in the tournament’s 12-year history. Lane Tech’s first championship win was the first year the contest was held in 2008.

Urban Debate National Champions and Lane Tech College Prep High School students Aysia Grey (left) and Ariana Collazo (right). | Provided
Urban Debate National Champions and Lane Tech College Prep High School students Aysia Grey (left) and Ariana Collazo (right). | Provided

This year’s contest — which tackled immigration — featured 42 teams from 21 urban debate leagues across the U.S., including one other Chicago school, Solorio Academy High School in Gage Park on the Southwest Side.

Collazo and her partner, Aysia Grey, won by utilizing a non-traditional form of debating — called kritikal debate — in which debaters talk about their own personal experiences to articulate their argument. The style has been an important tool in making debate more inclusive to students of color, Collazo said.

“Aysia and I winning that tournament … creates a huge impact on what the debate community will be in a few years because there will be people who look at what we did and say, ‘We can do it too,'” she said.

The tournament was Collazo’s last as a high school debater.

“It’s bittersweet, but at the same time it feels like it’s the right way to end this season of my life,” she said. “I’m going to find out who I am without debate.”

She started her debating career her freshman year when she was one of a dozen students chosen out of more than 100 that tried out for the team. Collazo said the team was so competitive, she almost didn’t go.

“I didn’t think there was any chance I’d get picked,” she said.

Team coach Andy Fine said he was overjoyed with the performance of Collazo and the entire team.

“I’m exceedingly proud to see my students not only achieving success through debate wins, culminating in the phenomenal accomplishment of back-to-back National Championship titles,” Fine said.

“But even more important is the pride I hold in watching my debaters speak passionately about incredibly sophisticated, real topics going on in the world, and becoming good people who will become thoughtful adults with integrity, helping create a brighter future for us all.”