UK Debate Team Starts Season Off Strong

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 24, 2012) — The University of Kentucky Debate Team has started their competitive season off strong, reaching the elimination round at every tournament they have attended so far.

In other words, individual UK teams have won enough preliminary rounds to advance to the single-elimination rounds, which follow a normal bracket pattern until single champion is named for the tournament, similar to how NCAA Tournaments work for college sports. 

UK students compete in pairs, debating multiple rounds both on the “affirmative” and “negative” side of the yearly debate topic. This year the policy debate topic focuses on whether the federal government should change its energy policy to increase support for domestic energy production from major energy sources: coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear power, wind power and solar power. 

When competing at tournaments, Kentucky teams will debate eight total preliminary rounds against other schools, four rounds where they must affirm the proposition, arguing that the federal government should increase support for domestic energy production, and four rounds where they must argue against it.

The UK team began the competitive season in September with a trip to Georgia State University in Atlanta. Freshmen students Margaret Strong and Donnie Grasse cleared to the elimination rounds at their very first college debate tournament. Their team finished with a 5-3 win-loss record in the preliminary rounds, earning them the No. 31 seed slot in elimination rounds. They then performed well against a tough No. 2 seed from Northwestern University in the elimination round debate.

At the beginning of October, Strong and Grasse also competed in the prestigious Kentucky Thoroughbred Round Robin, a horseracing-themed tournament hosted by the UK Debate Team that invites a selection of the top teams in the nation to compete against each other in a "round robin" format. 

Freshmen Jonathan Geldof and Marcel Roman took Second Place overall in the Freshmen Breakout of the Henry Clay College Invitational Tournament, another early October event hosted by UK. More than 140 individual debate teams representing 52 different universities from across the nation attended the tournament. 

The Henry Clay Tournament has a unique elimination round feature, where there is a separate, “breakout” set of elimination rounds to acknowledge outstanding first-year college debaters. On their way to the reaching the Final round of the Breakout, Geldof and Roman beat an exceptional team from the University of Iowa in the semifinals, the defending high school debate national champions. 

“All of the coaches are extremely proud of the teams’ finishes so far this season,” said Andrea Reed, director of the debate program.“We have a pretty young squad compared to many of the other schools that we are competing against, which some might see as a disadvantage, but it allows us to fly under the radar, so to speak. Many schools focus their preparation on the teams they perceive to be the best upperclassmen, allowing the younger debaters to sometimes snag a big victory by catching their opponents off guard.” 

Reed says young debaters are encouraged to aim high at tournaments. 

"The most rewarding victories are those where both sides have extensively prepared and you emerge victorious," she said. "We coach our freshmen to not enter competitions thinking that they have to ‘wait their turn’ to win the big debates against older, more experienced students."

Since the start of the season, the UK team has racked up wins against debate powerhouses Harvard, Northwestern, Dartmouth, Wake Forest, and even a few against regional rivals Vanderbilt, Georgia and Louisville. The team is now getting ready for their next tournament, which will take place Oct. 27-29 at Harvard.

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