Shaheryar Ajmal, left, and Sanjay Raavi pose with their trophies after the speech and debate tournament held this summer. Courtesy photo

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ORHS students debate well in tourney

By From page A3 | September 03, 2014

Oak Ridge High School students Shaheryar Ajmal and Sanjay Raavi earned 14th place in Public Forum Debate at the 2014 National Speech & Debate Tournament in Overland Park, Kan., earlier this summer.

Public Forum Debate is the newest form of debate offered by the National Speech & Debate Association and features opposing teams of two debating a topic concerning a current event. As high school juniors, Ajmal and Raavi surpassed hundreds of other debaters during the intense, weeklong competition held June 15-20. To win, they had to become experts on international relations between Russia, Ukraine, the United States and NATO.

They each earned a $1,000 college scholarship. Ajmal and Raavi were the only high school junior team that placed in the top ranks. As a result, they automatically qualified for 2015 National Speech & Debate Tournament that will be held at Dallas. They also received an invitation to compete at The Tournament of Champions in 2015. TOC is a high school debate tournament held annually at the University of Kentucky on the last weekend of April. It is the most prestigious tournament on the “national circuit,” representing the most competitively successful debaters from the nation’s most prestigious invitational debate tournaments.

The team is coached by Eric Larsen. Coach Larsen has mentored the Oak Ridge team as an after-school club for 15 years, taking students to the California State Tournament 10 of the last 12 years. He has also coached six nationally ranked competitors. Larsen currently serves as president of the Capitol Valley Forensic League, which coordinates high school debate competition in the greater Sacramento region.

The National Tournament marks the capstone of high school speech and debate activities for thousands of competitors across the nation and beyond. This year, more than 4,000 participated, including students from more than 20 international schools located in countries such as China and Korea. To attend, students must qualify at one of the association’s 110 district tournaments. National competition occurs in 11 main events —Policy Debate, Public Forum Debate, Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Congressional Debate-House, Congressional Debate-Senate, Original Oratory, United States Extemporaneous Speaking, International Extemporaneous Speaking, Humorous Interpretation, Dramatic Interpretation and Duo Interpretation — as well as seven consolation and supplemental events.

About the National Speech & Debate Association

The National Speech & Debate Association is the largest interscholastic speech and debate organization serving middle school, high school and collegiate students in the United States. The association provides competitive speech and debate activities, high-quality resources, comprehensive training, scholarship opportunities and advanced recognition to more than 130,000 students and coaches every year. For nearly 90 years, the National Speech & Debate Association has empowered more than 1.4 million members to become engaged citizens, skilled professionals and honorable leaders in society. For more information visit


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