BY Taylor Hatheway
Sanjeev Musuvathy and Rylee Buchert, both seniors at Jenks High School and teammates in policy debate, spend 40 to 50 hours per week working on debate-related activities. All of this hard work has paid off, resulting in the longest winning streak in the history of Jenks debate.
In policy debate, there are two teams, the affirmative team and the negative team. The affirmative team proposes a plan that supports the question the teams are given, while the negative team aims to negate the affirmative team’s plan. In order to win, you have to convince the judges that your team’s course of action is the correct one, regardless of if you’re on the affirmative or negative team.
Buchert and Musuvathy had started out with different debate partners but eventually, those partnerships fizzled out.
“So, Rylee and I were kind of the rising stars for freshman policy debate. We were also friends and we’ve been friends since, I don’t know, fourth or fifth grade. So it seemed natural that we would debate together,” says Musuvathy. The two of them got started in debate after their parents agreed that it would be good for them to have an extracurricular activity and debate came up “…because I like to talk a lot,” says Musuvathy.
Buchert says that having to research studies and going to news sites to research arguments and articles is his favorite part about participating in policy debate. For policy debate, there is a lot of prep work required before a team can compete like predicting what information the other teams are using and how they are going to implement that into their argument.
“There’s a saying that you’ll spend a hundred hours doing prep work for a debate tournament and only 5% of that work will be used,” says Musuvathy, even mentioning that some prep work has to be done in minutes, mid-competition, because the opposing team has a different approach than predicted.
The pair has also earned the longest winning record in Jenks Debate history with a 22-win streak in national tournaments and a 30-win streak in Oklahoma tournaments. Along with that achievement, the team also qualified to the Tournament of Champions, one of the most prestigious debate tournaments in the country, and has placed 9th at the National Speech and Debate Tournament, something that Jenks hasn’t done in about a decade.
Participating in policy debate has allowed Musuvathy and Buchert to meet new people from all around the country and be exposed to different arguments that they wouldn’t be able to hear in Oklahoma. Getting to travel for debate, including places like Kansas, Louisiana, Utah, Nebraska, and Florida, has been one of the highlights of debate because it provides new experiences Oklahoma doesn’t have.