KU Debate Wins Major National Tournament at Gonzaga

KU debate turned in a dominating performance at a tournament hosted by Gonzaga University October 28-31. The KU team of sophomores Jacob Hegna and Henry Walter won first place at the tournament while top ranked Harvard University finished 2nd. Two other KU teams finished in the top 5 teams. The KU duo of seniors Chris Birzer and Mac Cook took 3rd place and sophomore Sion Bell and junior Quaram Robinson finished in 5th place. Quaram Robinson was the 2nd place individual speaker at the tournament. A fourth KU team of freshman Saif Bajwa and senior Amit Bhatla qualified for the elimination rounds at the tournament.

KU’s performance was particularly impressive given the depth of the national field competing at the tournament. Other schools debating at the tournament included Arizona State, Baylor, California State-Berkeley, California State-Fullerton, Dartmouth, Emory, George Mason, Georgetown, Gonzaga, Harvard, Indiana, Kentucky, Mary Washington, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Puget Sound, Rutgers, Southern California, Texas, Texas-Dallas, UNLV, Washington, Wyoming, Wake Forest, Weber State and West Georgia. There were 79 total teams competing at the tournament. Eighteen of the top 20 teams in the country were in the tournament and every team ranked in the top 10.

After two days of competition involving all 79 teams, the top 32 teams qualified for single elimination competition on the final day. Entering elimination rounds Bell/Robinson were the 5th seed, Hegna/Walter the 10th seed, Birzer/Cook the 11th seed and Bajwa/Bhatla the 29th seed. In the round of 32 Bell/Robinson defeated Michigan State, Hegna/Walter defeated Oklahoma, and Birzer/Cook defeated Central Oklahoma. Bajwa/Bhatla were knocked out of the tournament by Harvard. In the round of 16 Bell/Robinson defeated Weber State, Hegna/Walter defeated Baylor, and Birzer/Cook defeated Southern California. In the quarterfinals Hegna/Walter defeated Berkeley and Birzer/Cook defeated Michigan while Bell Robinson were knocked out by Harvard. Hegna/Walter and Birzer/Cook met each other in the semifinals and Hegna/Walter advanced to the finals as the higher seeded team based on one tenth of a speaker point difference in the preliminary debates. Hegna/Walter met Harvard in the final round and Kansas took home the championship trophy. KU assistant coach Brendon Bankey said, “We are thrilled with the performance of all of the debaters. This was the first time in more than 25 years that KU has had three teams in the final eight of a major national tournament.”

KU took home some other awards as well. KU coaches Brett Bricker and Scott Harris received the top coaching award and KU assistant coach Brendon Bankey won the Halloween costume contest for his portrayal of Kenneth Bone.

The latest College Debate Rankings http://collegedebateratings.weebly.com/2016-17.html have three KU teams ranked in the top 20 teams in the country.  Bell/Robinson rank 6th, Hegna/Walter 9th and Birzer/Cook 12th. Two other KU teams rank in the top 35 with Katz/Fry ranked 30th and Bajwa/Bhatla ranked 34th.

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Front row:
Quaram Robinson, Sion Bell, Chris Birzer, Jacob Hegna, Henry Walter, Jacob Justice
Second row:
Chris Fry, Saif Bajwa, Amit Bhatla, Will Katz, Mac Cook, Brendon Bankey, Scott Harris, Brett Bricker