Four local high school students and a coach returned this month from a national speech and debate competition with medals, recognition and honors for their performances.
Each year since 1931, the National Forensic League has been inviting top high school debaters together for an international competition in 13 speech and debate events, according to Mountain View-Los Altos High School District debate coach Sharon Moerner. This year the event was held in Birmingham, Ala. from June 14 to 19, and four students from local high schools competed in the competition.
Two students from the Mountain-View-Los Altos High School District speech and debate team placed in the national event. Rylan Schaeffer, a sophomore, was a semifinalist in "congress," a category where students debate bills and resolutions. Natalee Pei, who just graduated, placed in the top 40 of 238 debaters in the Lincoln-Douglas competition, a one-on-one debate where students are given the topic only 30 minutes beforehand.
Saint Francis High School had two students compete in the policy debate competition. Sejal Parekh, a San Jose resident who just graduated from the school, and Chander Ramesh, a rising senior from Sunnyvale, placed fourth. They competed against 1,195 teams from 50 states, Guam, the Virgin Islands and Saipan and made it to the semifinal round, according to Saint Francis spokesperson Holly Elkins.
The National Forensic League also recognized Karen Keefer, an assistant coach for the MVLA team, as a "diamond key coach" due to her students' high performances over the years. Coaches receive one-tenth of their students' points, and Keefer's debaters have received over 15,000 points since she started coaching in 1995.
"Without her there would be no speech and debate team," parent Terese Tricamo said of Keefer in an e-mail. "Each year, Mrs. Keefer's leadership and deep knowledge of the activity holds the team together and provides continuity."