May 7, 2013: John Spurlock and Keenan Harris, at left, of Sacramento's C. K. McClatchy High School's debate team won the policy debate (also known as team debate) trophy at the national Tournament of Champions at the University of Kentucky in Lexington on April 27-29 defeating 71 other teams from high schools around the nation, competing in eleven two-hour debate rounds over three days. Policy debate, one of several categories at the tournament, is considered the most difficult and the win is the top honor.
The two-man team is the first team from a California public high school to win the tournment in its 42-year history. (A private school, Oakland's College Prep, won ten years ago.) Spurlock was also named "top speaker" at the event.
Policy debate requires students to research and argue a single subject over a year of research and study. This year’s topic was “Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its transportation infrastructure investment in the United States.” Debate is not funded in public schools; it is an after-school program that relies on parent and community donations.
"The magnitude of this win cannot be overstated," said McClatchy debate coach Seth Blackmon, at left.
According to the Capitol Valley Forensic League (affiliated with the California High School Speech Association), "Blackmon began coaching forensics as a blood sport at...McClatchy High School in 2010. Like many [debate coaches], he hails from the ranks of high school debaters-turned lawyers-turned forensic coaches in our league. He excels at wrangling correct debate paneling from reticent computers, coaxing results from defunct printers, and explaining to students why interrupting every debate round at the tournament is an ineffective strategy."
"We were competing against schools that have budgets upwards or in excess of six figures, Blackmon says,"C.K. McClatchy's debate budget is at best four figures..."I couldn't be more proud of these young men. They outworked the competition, including schools with numerous paid coaches..."
Spurlock, 17, told the Sacramento Bee, "Because a lot of the private academies that we were competing against can have upwards of 10 coaches who will all be helping to prepare them, we figured to get a leg up on the competition we would have to start early in November."
The policy debate topic for school year '13-'14 has not yet been selected. The topic will focus on an international issue and the five resolutions from which one will be selected can be read here.