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

KU Debate Opens Season in Impressive Fashion

The KU debate squad opened the season September 17-20 with teams competing at two national tournaments, in Kansas City and in Atlanta, and the teams performed extremely well at both tournaments. The KU duo of Sion Bell and Quaram Robinson took first place at a tournament hosted by the University of Missouri- Kansas City and the KU team of Jacob Hegna and Henry Walter took 3rd place at a tournament hosted by Georgia State University.

Quaram Robinson, a junior from Round Rock Texas, and Sion Bell, a sophomore from Baltimore MD, began the season where they left off last year. They ended the season last year finishing as the National Runner Up to Harvard at the National Debate Tournament and began this season by winning the season opener at UMKC. They defeated the University of Southern California in the final round to win the first major tournament of the year. They rolled through the tournament undefeated finishing with a 12-0 record. They defeated teams from Baylor University, the University of Iowa, the University of Oklahoma, Binghamton University, Georgia Mason University, the University of Central Oklahoma, Weber State University and USC. Robinson won the first place individual speaker award and Bell was the 6th place speaker.  The KU team of Brandon Boyce and Alondra Garcia-Arevalo, freshmen from Emporia KS, advanced to the quarterfinals in the Junior Varsity division to begin their college careers.

Meanwhile other KU teams were competing in Atlanta.  The team of Jacob Hegna, and Henry Walter, both sophomores from Overland Park KS, advanced to the semifinals of the tournament before losing a 2-1 split decision to the University of California at Berkeley. In their run to the semifinals they defeated teams from Northwestern University, Georgetown University, the University of Pittsburgh, Emory University, George Mason University and two teams from Wake Forest University. A second KU team, Chris Fry, a sophomore from Overland Park, and Will Katz, a junior from Topeka, advanced to the final 16 of the tournament. They pulled a major upset over the 3rd seeded team in the tournament from Emory University to reach the final 16 but were matched up against Hegna and Walter who advanced over them. A third KU pair, Chris Birzer, a senior from Leawood KS, and Mac Cook, a senior from Shawnee KS, advanced to the elimination rounds before losing a 2-1 split decision to Northwestern. A fourth KU team, Amit Bhatla, a senior from Shawnee, and Saif Bajwa, a freshman from Overland Park, won five of eight debates but just missed qualifying for the single elimination rounds. Chris Birzer was the 20th individual speaker at the tournament.

                Scott Harris, the David B. Pittaway Director of Debate at KU said, “We are thrilled at the excellent start to the season. We have a number of talented and hardworking debaters and we have hopes for an outstanding season.” The debate team will travel to 20 tournaments around the country between now and the National Debate Tournament in March. KU will be hosting the National Debate Tournament at the end of the 2016-17 season at the Edwards Campus in Overland Park, KS March 23-27. KU has qualified to the National Debate Tournament for 49 consecutive years.​
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KU Debate Team National Runner Up

– From Coach Scott Harris –

The KU debate team of Sion Bell, a freshman from Laurel Maryland, and Quaram Robinson, a sophomore from Round Rock Texas, finished 2nd at the 70th National Debate Tournament in Binghamton New York.  KU lost in the Championship Debate to Harvard University. The final round took place at the same time as the Men’s NCAA Basketball championship game. They are the 15th KU team to advance to the Final Four of the NDT and the 6th KU team to reach the championship debate.

The final round was the culmination of four days of competition in which the field of 78 teams was narrowed to Kansas and Harvard.  Each team in the tournament debated in eight preliminary debates and the top 31 teams Debate Team 2016

qualified for single elimination debates. Bell and Robinson began the tournament with 5 consecutive wins over the University of Southern California, George Mason University, the University of California-Berkeley, Wake Forest University, and Trinity University. They then lost back to back debates to a 2nd team from the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Kentucky before bouncing back with a win over Northwestern University in the final preliminary debate. They advanced to the elimination rounds with a 6-2 record as the 13th seed. In the first elimination round they defeated a team from Emory University to advance to the Sweet 16 and the final day of competition.

In the sweet 16 they met the 4th seeded team from the University of California-Berkeley in a rematch and defeated them for the second time in the tournament.  In the Elite Eight they had a rematch with the 5th seeded team from Berkeley that had defeated them in the preliminary rounds and this time KU emerged victorious to advance to the Final Four. In the semifinals they defeated the University of Michigan, the top seed at the tournament and the team that had entered the tournament as the 2nd ranked team in the country.  In the championship debate KU lost to the Harvard team that was the top ranked team in the country. Bell and Robinson had entered the NDT as the 17th ranked team in the country.

A second KU team composed of Chris Carey, a senior from Westwood Hills Kansas, and Amit Bhatla, a junior from Lenexa, went 5-3 in the preliminary rounds and qualified for the single elimination debates. In the preliminary rounds they defeated the University of Texas, Indiana University, the University of Wyoming, Central Oklahoma University, and the University of West Georgia. They lost in the first elimination round to the Berkeley team that Bell-Robinson would later defeat in the Elite Eight.

Quaram Robinson was recognized as the sixth best individual speaker at the tournament. Scott Harris, the David B. Pittaway Director of Debate at KU said, “We are incredibly proud of the performance of the debaters at the NDT. Quaram and Sion had an amazing tournament with 6 wins over teams ranked in the top 10. Making it to the final round was a testament to their talent and hard work. I am very grateful to the hard work of all the assistant coaches who helped them on this remarkable run.” According to Assistant Coach Sean Kennedy their performance included some historic achievements. Sean claimed, “They are the first team not ranked in the top 16 going into the tournament to make it to the final round since rankings began in 1973; they are only the 2nd team of two non-males to debate in the final round and Quaram is the first black woman to ever compete in the final round.”

It was announced during the tournament that the University of Kansas will be the host for next year’s National Debate Tournament to be held March 23-27, 2017. Coach Brett Bricker stated, “We are very excited at the prospect of bringing the NDT to the University of Kansas for the first time.”

KU teams also performed well at other national tournaments.  The team of Jacob Hegna, a freshman from Austin Minnesota, and Henry Walter, a freshman from Overland Park Kansas won the National Junior Division Debate Tournament, a national championship for debaters in their first two years of college competition. It is the third consecutive year that KU has won the NJDDT Championship. The team of Chris Fry, a freshman from Overland Park Kansas, and Will Katz, a sophomore from Topeka Kansas took 3rd place at the tournament.  The team of Lainey Schrag, a freshman from Overland Park, and Tyler Woodcock, a freshman from Leavenworth finished in 5th place. At the Cross Examination Debate Association national tournament the team of Hegna-Walter finished in 9th place.