Hillsdale College’s debate team spent the weekend reminding its competitors just how many awards it could snatch with just a dozen students, most of whom are freshmen.
The team placed second in “The Gorlok” at Webster University in Missouri, and several students set new personal records Jan. 27 – 29. Students said the results from this most competitive tournament of the year give them hope for doing well at nationals.
“Webster is the most competitive Lincoln-Douglas tournament that we attend outside of nationals,” senior Graham Deese said. “So the fact that so many of our students did so well bodes well for our chances when we get to the national tournament.”
Coach Matthew Doggett, assistant professor of rhetoric and public address, said the teams’ performances impressed him, especially against some of the best colege debate teams in the country. Schools came from as far as California and New Hampshire.
The fierce competition, however, didn’t stop freshman Alexandra Negrich, who broke into the finals in her first tournament. Negrich joined freshman Hannah Johnson in qualifying for nationals.
“I had never done debate before, so I knew it would serve as an excellent learning experience,” Negrich said. “It was even better than I had anticipated, especially since our team did so well.”
Negrich made it to the quarterfinals of the novice Lincoln-Douglas round, while Johnson finished in the semifinals.
Five other students advanced to the elimination rounds. Freshmen Natalie Van Handel and Kathleen Hancock were both novice finalists, with Van Handel taking home her first overall win and Hancock making it to the semifinals. Freshman Elizabeth Owen took ninth place in the junior varsity tournament. Freshman Joel Meng and Deese made it to the octofinal round in the open, or varsity, tournament, with Meng doing so for the first time.
In the two-person team parliamentary debates, three of Hillsdale’s five pairs made it to the elimination rounds. In junior varsity, freshmen Brigid Majmudar and Elizabeth Owen placed fourth. In open, Deese and junior Duncan Voyles took fifth place, while Meng and Lucy Meckler placed second. Each team won at least one elimination round.
Meng said he and Meckler had to argue the effectiveness of building a wall on the border, and despite the close debate, they could not sway their judges. It, however, was still another “first” for the team.
“This was the first time in at least eight years that we have had a team advance to open quarterfinals or better, and this year, we had two,” Deese said. “As this is the most competitive tournament that we attend, we are very happy with these finishes.”
Edit: This article previously stated Webster University was in Mississippi. It is located in Missouri. We apologize for this error.