Debate team ranks among top in nation
Four University of Mary Washington students attended the 67th annual National Debate Tournament, held at Weber State University from March 28 through April 1.
Along with 78 other teams from colleges in the U.S., Colin McElhinny, a junior economics and political science major, and Patrick McCleary, a junior political science major, entered the tournament ranked fifth among the top 16 teams in the U.S.
Rankings are determined from previous debates before the national tournament.
UMW was the only public and state school in the top five, and ranked just below Georgetown, Northwestern University, Harvard University and Wakeforest University.
Tom Pacheco, junior political science and philosophy major, and Leandra Lopez, junior international affairs major, also qualified for the tournament through the district seven tournament held at UMW in February.
Debate Coach Adrienne Brovero and Assistant Debate Coach Judd Kimball also attended the tournament and were on the panel of judges for the debates.
The National Debate Tournament at Weber State University in Utah involved student debate teams of two for an hour and a half at a time, with eight preliminary debates, according to Pacheco.
Each team debates four affirmative positions and four negative and, if teams win five out of eight debates, they advance to the elimination round, Kimball said.
After the preliminary debates, the elimination round begins with about 26-30 teams remaining.
Teams are then eliminated once they lose one debate, and the round advances, according to Kimball.
McElhinny and McCleary made it to the elimination round but lost in the first round of debates.
The tournament loss does no affect the debate team’s national ranking for this year, but will affect their ranking next year.
“We felt that we could have done better,” McElhinny said.
Kimball explained that the teams had previous wins against many other teams and that their work up to the tournament led them to have high expectations and hopes.
“We were going there competing for the national title, so any point in time that we lost we were going to be disappointed to some degree,” said Kimball.
Nevertheless, Kimball and Pacheco spoke positively of the past season of the debate team, particulary with their success at attaining the highest ranking in the history of UMW’s debate team.
The topic for this year’s debate tournament was, “The United States Federal Government should substantially reduce restrictions on and/or substantially increase financial incentives for energy production in the United States of one or more of the following: coal, crude oil, natural gas, nuclear power, solar power, wind power.”
The teams started research immediately after they were given the topic, working before fall semester began, during fall and spring break and even on New Year’s Day, Brovero said.
“One of our primary goals for every season is to qualify at least two teams for the NDT,” Brovero explained.
McElhinny mentioned the many debates around the country that both teams have attended this year, including tournaments at Georgia State University, Harvard University, the University of Southern California and Northwestern University.
The teams met weekly, often daily, in preparation for the National Debate Tournament.
Kimball explained that preparation requires the teams to debate anything concerning a topic and to anticipate what other teams might say.
“It’s very open-ended research,” Kimball said.
The research “requires a lot of critical thought” in terms of deciding how certain arguments can be useful on either side of the debate, according to Kimball.
The teams spoke positively about the topic for this year’s debate, noting that the energy topic was very current.
“It was much better than previous topics,” McLeary said.
The process of submitting ideas for next year’s NDT is currently in progress and the UMW teams are already preparing to compete.