Debate squad motivated to maintain ranking

Faith Griffin

Being motivated from their success in the debate competition at the University of Missouri a week ago, the Washburn forensics team is preparing for this semester.

Members of the debate team worked over the course of Winter break for the competition held Jan. 12-15.

The debate team took first in overall sweepstakes. This victory added to their list of achievements – the debate team was recently ranked third out of 389 schools, which is above Texas Tech, Western Kentucky University (the reigning champs), Rice University, Creighton University, Truman State and California-Berkley.

The National Parliamentary Debate Organization ranked the team, according to Kevin O’Leary, head coach of the debate team.

The debate team will be competing in the National Policy Debate Association nationals this semester. They are looking toward a top five finish in the season-long competition and at the actual national tournament.

They have a young squad this year. The team consists of two juniors, 12 sophomores and five freshmen. There has been a steady growth due to the heavy recruiting class two years ago, according to O’Leary.

Key tournaments for the debate team have been Truman State, where they won first in overall sweepstakes and debate, and Creighton University’s tournament where they received second behind Western Kentucky.

The skills that are learned while being involved in debate goes beyond the classroom.

“Everything we do in debate translates in other areas like public speaking, note-taking and conversational skills,” said Jessica Otto, a sophomore Spanish and philosophy major.

The squad members spend four hours per week of squad meetings, a few hours of meetings with coaches individually and approximately five hours of individual work and research.

Tonya Stein, a senior communications major and second year on the Washburn debate team, is very pleased with the success that the debate team has had so far.

Washburn debate team makes up a large portion in the rounds at tournament, which is a great advantage, according to Stein.

One of their goals this semester is to move up in rank and have as many people as possible qualify for nationals. Last year they finished fifth at the National Forensics League tournament, and want to move up to the top three.

How much time they work outside of classroom practice is determined by the level of motivation, according to Stein.

“Everyone’s pretty good friends and hang out. We all get along because we spend so much time together,” said Stein.

At the competition they remain focused by practicing in the hotel the night before. Along with their worth ethic, their coaches contribute to their success.

“Our coaches are very supportive no matter what happens. They are always on us to do better and play a key part in our success. They organize all the chaos,” said Stein.

The debate team also gives credit to Washburn administration officials for their success.

“We are thankful for all the support from Washburn. Dr. Wasserstein is very supportive. We wouldn’t be able to function as well as we do without his help. Washburn is a remarkable place for our program,” said Stein.

The team will compete this weekend at Webster University in individual events, parliamentary debate and Lincoln-Douglas debate, and will compete in three more debate tournaments throughout the semester.

The team is also hosting a two-day debate tournament on Feb. 4-5 for competitors in Lincoln-Douglas debate and parliamentary debate.