Many Ashland High School students placed in the first-ever Oregon-hosted National Parliamentary Debate Tournament of Champions this past weekend.

Previously held in California, this year the tournament was at Ashland High where six AHS students qualified.

Mat Marr, Ashland speech and debate coach, said Oregon qualified more teams this year than ever before. Wilson, Cleveland and Lake Oswego schools all earned spots as well.

Students from the 40 best speech and debate team from high schools all over the country compete every spring to win a rotating trophy and title. Teams are given 20 minutes to prepare a debate on a topic presented to them at the beginning of the round, meaning students must be very knowledgeable about current events. Students work with the same partner they qualified to enter the tournament with. They are allowed to use the internet within those 20 minutes, but can only communicate with one another. A panel of judges cast ballots and whichever team receives the majority of ballots moves to the next round.

“This is the first time Ashland has hosted a National Tournament,” Marr said. “Our students got to make connections with the best debaters from all over the country. In class this week we have been talking about how students can learn and grow from the debates they observed.”

This year debates included topics such as: “Florida should substantially restrict new development near coastlines as a response to climate change”; “The US should amend the Presidential Records Act to ban the deletion of social media posts from accounts associated with the President”; and “The US should re-impose sanctions on Myanmar in response to its treatment of the Rohingya minority.”

Ashland high juniors Sarah Aaronson and Annika Larson ranked in the top eight finalists. Hannah Doyle and Alex Webb, senior, ranked in the top 16. The National Champions are Campolindo High, based on their debating on the resolution: “The US should ban non-medical exemptions to vaccinations,” according to Marr.

Sienna Scoggin, sophomore, has been on the speech and debate team for two years. She participated in the tournament.

“It was really fun, but it was a little bit challenging competing against the top debaters in the country,” Scoggin said. “I learned a lot of new and different types of debating techniques.”

AHS’s next tournament is the Oregon School Activities Association State Championship April 19-21.
— Contact Ashland freelance writer Caitlin Fowlkes at Caitlin.fowlkes@gmail.com.