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Coming back to campus with very unusual tro­phies — a brain on a platter and a grave­stone — the Hillsdale College debate team sur­passed its expec­ta­tions this weekend at Bowling Green State University’s “Night of the Living Dead”-themed tour­nament.

With topics including whether the United States gov­ernment should contain the out­break of zombies, the pre­vention of nuclear pro­lif­er­ation, weapons sales to Taiwan to Medicare, the team had to think metaphor­i­cally in order to have success at the tour­nament.

“Our team did not dress up, and neither did most of the other com­petitors, but the host school’s team and staff did,” said debate coach Matthew Doggett, assistant pro­fessor of speech.

“It was a very fun and inter­esting tour­nament. It really chal­lenged our team members to think outside of the box.”

The tour­nament was a swing, meaning there were two sep­arate com­pe­ti­tions on Sat­urday and Sunday both.

On Sat­urday, Feb. 25, the team won second place in overall debate sweep­stakes. Senior Elliot Gaiser took second in open Lincoln-Douglas debate. Junior Bryan Brooks and his partner, sophomore Ian Hanchett, also took second in open par­lia­mentary debate.

On Sunday, Feb. 26, the team placed first in debate sweep­stakes. Hillsdale con­sti­tuted three of the four semi­fi­nalists in Lincoln-Douglas. Brooks, Hanchett, and sophomore Jonathan Slonim closed out the round by winning first, second, and third place.

“When they close out they just give us the awards because two members from the same team cannot compete against one another,” Doggett said. “It doesn’t matter who gets first, as long as someone from Hillsdale gets it, of course.”

Gaiser and his partner, sophomore Lauren Holt, won first place in open par­lia­mentary debate. This was their first overall win in open par­lia­mentary this year.

“It was encour­aging to finally see results in the out-rounds of that form of debate,” Holt said.

“This is the first time that Lauren and I have won a tour­nament for Hillsdale,” Gaiser said. “She’s only a sophomore, so the league had better look out.”

The tour­nament did not award speaker points.

Despite the far­cical theme, several factors made this tour­nament chal­lenging.

“The topics in par­lia­mentary debate were very broad, meaning that when we were on the neg­ative, we would often have to adapt in-round,” Brooks said. “Also, Grove City College was at the tour­nament, and they have a very strong debate team.”

Brooks and Hanchett faced the Grove City team four out of their six rounds throughout the Sat­urday tour­nament and won three of the four.

In addition to these chal­lenges, many of the judges had little or no col­le­giate debate expe­rience and some had never seen an aca­demic debate before, Brooks said.

“This made it chal­lenging for us because we are used to judges who debated in college and are used to the activity and the regular jargon that goes with it,” Brooks said.

Just as some of the judges were facing new debate expe­ri­ences, so were junior Alex Graf and sophomore Harris Wells.

Graf com­peted for the first time in Inter­na­tional Public Debate Asso­ci­ation-style debate and won second place.

Wells had never seen a Lincoln-Douglas debate before Sunday and had not read the evi­dence until Sat­urday night.

“Lincoln-Douglas has a steep learning curve, espe­cially when you jump in at the end of the season because everyone already has a lot of knowledge on the topic, which made it hard for Harris to jump in with no expe­rience in this format,” Brooks said. “However, Harris improved so much that by the end of the tour­nament he was able to compete with one of the top debaters from Otterbein Uni­versity.”

Wells has decided to join the team in its next tour­nament in two weeks at Michigan State Uni­versity — unde­terred by the unusual expe­rience of debating at a zombie-themed tour­nament.

“Some of the res­o­lu­tions were funny, but they were still easy to under­stand and debate about,” Holt said. “They really left us a lot of room to be cre­ative and have fun. It’s nice to have a weekend like this one. I really did have a total blast.”