KAITLIN MAYHEW AND MEGAN ORTIZ
The University of Mary Washington Debate Team added once again to their long list of achievements last week by reaching top placements at two national competitions.
Senior Matt Struth and junior Kevin Kallmyer won first place at the American Debate Association (ADA) Tournament on March 15, at Appalachian State University. Their final debate for the win was against Vanderbilt University.
The following week on March 26-29, the pair made UMW debate history by making it to the quarter finals at the National Debate Tournament (NDT), the most prestigious national debate competition of its kind.
Struth and Kallmyer have both competed at the NDT previously, and as one of 78 of the nation’s most competitive debate teams present this year, they were more successful than ever. They surpassed top teams from all over the country such as Harvard University and Dartmouth University. Kallmyer attributes the team’s success to the outstanding time and effort that he and Struth put into their debate arguments.
“We are extremely hard-working,” Kallmyer said. “Other teams might be a bit smarter than us, but we’ll do the grunt work to get it done.”
UMW debate coach and speech professor Timothy O’Donnell agrees, asserting that Kallmyer and Struth were very well researched, and as a small team of researchers able to focus on fewer arguments and be really good at them.
“I think they complemented each other well,” he said. “They were smart about debating in ways so that the coaching staff and the resources of the team flowed.”
The only team that eventually eliminated Struth and Kallmyer was from University of Kansas, and that same team went on to win the entire competition.
O’Donnell believes that their win over UMW could be attributed to “people and resources.”
“They had over 30 people and the resources to support them,” he said.
He also maintained that the debaters, coaches and director at UMW are in no way inferior to those at University of Kansas, but that having 30 researchers as opposed to UMW’s much smaller team can have it’s advantages.
The two were also recognized for individual awards in both competitions as “top speakers.” Struth was named first at the ADA and 12th at the NDT. Kallmyer was third at the ADA and 10th at the NDT.
“The top speaker award is a kind of ‘who’s who’ for debate,” Timothy O’Donnell said, UMW debate coach and speech professor. “Many ‘top speakers’ have gone on to serve in the Supreme Court or go to Harvard Law [School].”
This year, the focus for the national tournaments was agriculture policy. Each year a new topic is voted upon and chosen for the upcoming collegiate debate season.
“We pick one big, large area of American public policy and research it,” O’Donnell said.
The teams discussed the US and it’s use of subsidies such as corn, sugars, and cotton. Within debate competitions a team is either on the affirmative or the negative, commonly referred to as “aff” and “neg” by debaters. Competitors must switch sides as they move through the tournament, adapting their arguments to fit their next platform.
“When we were affirmative we mostly talked about cotton subsidies,” O’Donnell said. “When the other team starts we have to talk about whatever subsidy they want to talk about.”
With the debate season over, the team is now entering a period of relative vacation before they start gearing up for next year. According to O’Donnell the topic for next year, which he believes will most likely be US and Russia foreign policy will be chosen by May, and debaters will be researching throughout the summer months.
Although the competitions are finished for the year, O’Donnell says that debate is an ongoing activity. Debaters devote a copious amount of time to research and preparation throughout the year. Kallmyer, who is in his third year of varsity debate at UMW believes that the experience of debate is worth the time.
“There is nothing close to debate that gets me [as] excited,” he said. “I like winning. I like competition. I like not being some useless drone who doesn’t now what’s going on in the world.”
Kallmyer went on to say that the reason he chose to attend UMW was not only the competitive debate team, but also it’s small size.
“It’s a smaller squad so I knew I would get immediate travel,” he said.
Despite the travel time, which takes debaters out of class, and leaves them with piles of makeup work upon return, O’Donnell says that most team members learn how to find a balance. He says that he always stresses the importance of school work, and keeps a strict minimum gpa for debaters.
“Debaters should be the best students,” O’Donnell said.
In addition to competitive tournaments, O’Donnell hopes to get debaters involved in more exhibitionary debates, such as the Inauguration Series that took place in January. These debates, unlike tournaments are not judged, but serve to educate the public on policy issues and give debaters a more varied experience.
O’Donnell and Kallmyer will be attending such an event in California at the end of April focusing on beach policies.
Aside from the travel, constant research, and meticulous time management, Kallmyer is devoted to collegiate debate and believes that it will further his aspiration to attend law school after UMW.
“I am a very competitive person,” Kallmyer said. “It’s this perfect activity.”