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.