At Penn State this past weekend, the Hillsdale College debate team crushed their competition with seven of the eight debaters who attended the tournament taking home trophies.
Overall, the team placed first in debate sweepstakes and second in overall sweepstakes. Overall sweepstakes includes both speech and debate events. Hillsdale does not participate in speech. Junior and team manager Jadon Buzzard explained that the team’s performance at the tournament was especially impressive as they had not been performing well outside of the preliminary rounds so far this season.
“Up until this tournament, we hadn’t done very well in out rounds,” Buzzard said. “That’s why this tournament is pretty important because we won every single out round that we had in this tournament. We only lost one, total, and everybody who went to this tournament broke into out rounds.”
Buzzard, along with sophomore Tavio Pela, swept the open division finals. Sophomore Frank Vitale and junior Erin Reichard swept the JV division finals. Junior Wiliam Chamberlain, a first-year debater, advanced to the quarterfinal round in open division. Coach Matthew Doggett said Chamberlain wildly improved from his first tournament performance where he lost all six of his preliminary rounds.
“I turned my performance around after my first tournament by practicing more, including the parliamentary debate style to improve my improvisational skills,” Chamberlain said in an email. “I also familiarized myself with the evidence I was going to use so as to be better prepared.”
Chamberlain said he joined the debate team this year because he was friends with many of the debaters and was curious about the “hype.” Overall, he said his experience has been fantastic.
“All of the more experienced debaters are always willing to help you with your case or topics that you have trouble with,” he said. “Also, despite the argumentative nature of debate, everyone tries to keep up a fun and friendly atmosphere where even if you have just had a very heated debate round, you can just get up, shake hands, and have fun with them after.”
Doggett said the team is comprised of a solid junior class who now have three years of debate experience. He explained that the team now runs on autopilot.
“We’ve done very well,” Doggett said. “We’ve got the most people qualified for our national tournament than we’ve ever had and earlier than we’ve ever had.”