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The Piedmont Highlander

The Piedmont Highlander

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Hiring of Tristan Keene

Tristian Keene
Tristian Keene (Left) during a debate competition

  “Alright competitors, your time starts now”. The clock starts ticking and the teams converse. They scramble to research and build their argument, knowing their prep will be short lived. 

    In January, Piedmont’s Debate team hired UC Berkeley Debater Tristan Keene as their head coach. Keene, a senior at UC Berkeley, has won three national collegiate debate championships and is currently ranked first in the nation. She is bringing her knowledge and experience to teach Piedmont High debaters strategy, debate theory, and how to deal with the pressure of competition.

  Keene started debating her senior year of high school and fell in love with the sport.

  “I started doing debate in my senior year of high school then did competitive debate at Diablo Valley Community College, and then transferred to Berkeley, where I have competed for the last two years and won a national championship,” Keene said.

  Keene said that debate appeals to her because of the need for quick thinking and adaptability.

  “I was drawn to debate because it is really important to have the ability to think on their feet and be able to research things really quickly and turn those things into coherent arguments,” Keene said.

  Having done debate for five years, Keene said that no one is a naturally talented debater and that proficiency in the field comes from years of practice and work.

  “Everybody starts from somewhere. We were all beginners at one point. I struggled so hard at this activity until I finally found success three years in,” Keene said.

  Keene has previously coached debate at Campolindo High School, but has decided to coach at Piedmont through the 2024-2025 season.

  “One of the parents reached out to me while I was running one of our high school tournaments at UC Berkeley. It’s close to campus so then I decided to head over to Piedmont,” Keene said.

  Keene was hired this January after the previous coach Sarah Wheeler left midseason. The team was without a coach for a few weeks before Keene was hired, said Debate Team Archivist and Club Liaison Ella Hughes.

  As Piedmont’s coach, Keene has made it her priority to make sure that students can learn in the best way possible.

  “Tristan is definitely team centric. She has coached at other high schools and she is also a UC Berkeley debater, so she’s knowledgeable in that world herself,” said sophomore Debate vice-president Meher Bachher.

  Keene believes that a good coach must be able to pivot and understand when to push their students and when to give them a break.

  “What I am good at is that I’m not a pre-planned lecture person. I listen to the students to hear what they want to learn about, and I think that kind of adaptability is my strength,” Keene said.

  Keene also emphasizes proper preparation and practice in real debate scenarios.

  “What Tristan is great at is stress testing us to prepare us for official rounds. One practice she and her partner, who are collegiate national champions, went against us. This was incredible because while she made it clear we could not win the round, she wanted us to try and figure out how she and her partner beat us,” Hughes said.

  Every Monday at 5:45 p.m. and every Wednesday at 6:15 p.m, Keene and the debate team meet for practice in room 33 .

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About the Contributor
Axel Saldanha
Axel Saldanha, Sports Editor
Axel Saldanha (12) is a sports co-editor for the TPH. Growing up in an active household, Axel enjoys spending his free time outdoors hiking, skiing, mountain biking, fishing, and backpacking. Axel is very interested in both history and biology and spends a lot of his free evenings educating himself about both.
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