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Carroll Senior Crowned 2015 TOC Congressional Debate Champion

May 07, 2015 09:40AM ● By Kevin

Azhar Hussain with Glenbrooks (Chicago) tournament. Photo courtesy of Jason Sykes.

Carroll Senior Azhar Hussain was crowned the 2015 TOC Congressional Debate Champion last weekend at the Tournament of Champions at the University of Kentucky. According to the debate team's coordinator Jason Sykes, this is the most difficult and significant high school speech and debate event anywhere.

The Tournament of Champions is a high school debate championship tournament held annually at the University of Kentucky alongside Kentucky Derby events at the end of April. It is the most prestigious tournament on the "national circuit," representing the most competitively successful debaters from the nation's most prestigious individual debate tournaments. Founded in 1972 by Dr. JW Patterson, the Tournament of Champions has emerged as the premier championship for high school debaters who frequently compete nationally in Policy, Lincoln–Douglas, Public Forum, and Congressional debate.  The Tournament of Champions represents a wide swath of the high school academic community, from public schools to private schools, including students from across the country, from Anchorage, Alaska to Miami, Florida.

Students qualify to compete at the TOC by earning “bid” legs based on their performance during the regular competitive season at national and regional tournaments, Sykes explained. The TOC’s Advisory Committees decide which of the nation’s debate tournaments will serve as qualifying tournaments, seeking to strike a balance between the geographic diversity provided by regional tournaments and large tournaments that host a truly national draw. 

Emma Lin and Zain Aziz also worked enormously hard in advance of and during this weekend's competition, Sykes said. 

The Dragons brought home top honors at the Lone Star District Tournament the weekend of April 18. This event is a a national qualifying tournament and one of the most competitive events in the country, according to MySouthlakeNews.

"Carroll freshmen Aman Patel and Camilla Cox are the first Cross Examination Debate team ever to qualify for Nationals from CISD," the article said. "Likewise, qualifying to the national tournament as ninth graders is extraordinarily rare."

"This is a big accomplishment because usually this honor is reserved for juniors and seniors," Sykes said. "Aman and Camilla are among the strongest young CX teams I have ever coached. They were pretty excited, but they also don’t have a lot of context for what they’ve achieved. It has been very difficult to start a CX debate program here given that we have no varsity students for the novices to learn from or look up to. 

"Ultimately, this has been a strength for Aman and Camilla as they don’t yet know they’re not supposed to be winning at this level. It keeps them level headed and minimizes the amount of intimidation they have to endure."

Lin, a sophomore, and Hussain, were Congressional Debate (Senate) winners in the Lone Star District Tournament.

"Emma was one of very few sophomores to attend the TOC, and that should give her a significant advantage over her competition in future years," Sykes said.

Sykes is in his first year coaching the team, which has a strong tradition of winning. He said living up to that standard isn't easy.

"While I’ve been a part of large, winning programs for a long time, there are always new variables to consider," he said. "We had our shares of highs and lows, but ultimately it’s been a smooth transition with lots of success. I feel very grateful for the support of our amazing administration and community and the dedication of our talented students. I know there’s a lot more to come!"

Southlake Debate will conclude its season at the National Speech and Debate Association's National Finals in June.

Students are also gearing up for long summer camps. Students will attend camp for 2-4 weeks at universities across the country. Sykes said the district will establish a summer camp in Southlake in 2016. 

"With 130 students in 2015-16, the team is the largest and most diverse academic team in Southlake," he concluded. "Debate makes students better academics, and everyone is invited to find their place in our program."

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