Debate team comes home champions

A force to be reckoned with: Kelly Burns and Zach Wallentine compete this weekend at University of Missouri. They brought home first place from the Concordia University Irvine Invitational.

Morgan Holloway

The Washburn debate team traveled to California to compete at the Concordia University Irvine Invitational Jan. 26 and 27, the largest tournament of the year so far. The invitational brought squads from Cerritos College, Concordia University, CSU Los Angeles, El Camino College, Grand Canyon University, Irvine Valley College, Mercer University, Point Loma Nazarene University, Rice University, Rio Hondo College, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, University of Arizona and the University of Oklahoma. 

WU Debate brought four teams and two were cleared after six preliminary rounds. Taylor Nichol and Jillian Roy finished as octo-finalists, while Zach Wallentine and Kelly Burns pushed onward.  

Wallentine and Burns participated in eleven different debates and entered elimination rounds 5-1. In the semifinals, the team got revenge when they defeated their one loss from elimination rounds. Overall, the team walked away as champions after defeating Concordia on a 2-1 decision.  

Since September, the debate squad has been putting in lots of hours to be well prepared in these tournaments. The group meets for two hours Monday, Wednesday and Friday, meets with a coach for two hours a week independently and outside of that, they are constantly researching, watching news or documentaries and staying in tune with what is happening in the world. 

“One could describe debate as having a quality of a double-edged sword in a sense, and that the domain of potential inquiry and discussion is so wide that to research it all, is almost an untenable task to undertake. But for the same reason that any sort of research the one independently engages in, is likely to have some sort of utility in the context of some debate. You will have some sort of output to that effort,” said Wallentine. 

Wallentine and Burns haven’t always been paired together.  

“There was one tournament in the fall that my previous debate partner had to take the LSAT and we did really well at that tournament, so they ended up keeping us together for this semester,” said Burns. 

Coaches Kevin O’Leary and Steve Doubledee work with students to prepare them for their tournaments, partner the teams together, oversee practice sessions and schedule individual sessions. 

“Kelly and Zach were a repair. They actually didn’t debate together until our tournament and they made it to quarterfinals. We said well, hey, that kind of worked and we left them together. We are constantly repairing usually based off chemistry and work ethic,” said Doubledee. 

While debate may seem like a lot of work, both the coaches and students participating expressed how rewarding debate can be. 

For Burns, she relates it back to academia. 

“I’ve done better in my classes, I have focused harder in my classes to critically think about how the world functions as a whole. But it has also kept me in college and kept me going for higher education. I’m going to graduate school for coaching debate and I will probably wouldn’t be considering a master or Ph.D. if I didn’t have debate,” said Burns. 

For Wallentine, it’s the challenge of making decisions. 

“Knowing every side of all of these issues forces you to recognize that in the real world, you have to be willing to take definite stances because when you’re trying to prove either side of any value, meaning you have to have convictions, and you have to be willing to be confident in the truths of your claims. I think that lots of people fear public speaking because they are afraid of taking those definite claims. Debate confronts you, in every round, in every instance, over and over with the very real possibility that you might be told or thought to be wrong and I think that a healthy thing to not have a fear of,” said Wallentine. 

The debate team provides opportunities for students whether it be traveling, scholarship opportunities or to get over a fear of public speaking. 

“I would highly encourage anyone interested in debate, even if they have no debate experience whatsoever. We would love to bring folks along that are kind of interested in honing they’re speaking ability or just meeting students from around the nation,” O’Leary said. 

WU’s debate squad will be traveling to the University of Missouri to compete in a national preparation tournament Feb. 9 and 10. This will be the last tournament of the semester before nationals.  

Both the students and coaches expressed how grateful they are for Washburn’s continuous support. 

“We would not be able to do as well as we do without our coaches and without our institutional support,” said Burns.