Twenty members of the Hillsdale College Debate Team — along with Coach Matthew Doggett and eight former students who served as coaches — traveled to Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York for the Pi Kappa Delta National Tournament. The team placed third overall in debate sweepstakes and finished in the top 20 percent of teams in combined speech and debate sweepstakes despite only competing in debate.
Pi Kappa Delta is a forensics honorary, which hosts a biennial tournament for its chapters to compete in a variety of different speech and debate events. That tournament draws from all over the country. This year’s tournament, which was PKD’s 51st biennial event, saw teams from 71 different schools in 27 states.
A number of individuals placed at the top of their events. Sophomores Erin Reichard and Amelia Rasmusen took first in Worlds Debate — a form of British Parliamentary. Instead of the customary two pairs in parliamentary debate, Worlds has four teams of two all competing against each other in one room. The PKD tournament was Reichard and Rasmusen’s first official experience with Worlds Debate.
“It’s fundamentally about engaging with the best form of your opponent’s argument rather than just playing some tactical game,” Reichard said. “British Parliamentary debate is more of a discussion and more about the ideas themselves.”
The two finalists in the Junior Lincoln Douglas debate final were Hillsdale team members. Sophomore TJ Wilson and freshman Ben Bies were the last men standing in the junior division, and Bies won the national championship because of his rank going into the final round. Bies said he “destroyed” his early competition and worked his way up in the seeding for the preliminary rounds of the tournament. He said his performance in early rounds boosted his confidence and prepared him for the final rounds of competition.
“I found out at this tournament that when I go into my rounds angry, I debate a lot better,” Bies said. “It can make me look like a little bit of a jerk in the round, but it helps win rounds and gives you good energy.”
Johnson said the team did well overall and was happy with the performance.
“We had a great time and a lot of good team bonding,” Johnson said. “Frankly, when you’re stuck with people for six days, you get to know people really well. That makes it a lot easier to celebrate your teammates’ successes.”
A few weeks before the PKD tournament, Hillsdale sent two debaters to a California tournament to gain information about the differences between West Coast and East Coast debate. Johnson said the information helped the team a bit.
“We definitely found out that they do more of the Kritik style of debate,” she said. “Of course, which Kritik they’re going to run is not something we can really predict. It will definitely help us going forward with our next tournament.”
At the end of April, select members of the team will travel to the National Forensics Association Tournament. The tournament focuses on Lincoln Douglas debate and will be held in Southern California.