Young UW debate program collects wins in California tournaments

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It took the University of Washington Debate Union only three months to win its first tournament championships after a 17 year hiatus. Teams from UW won both the novice and junior varsity divisions of the Kathryn Klassic Debate Tournament at California State University-Fullerton held January 6 to 9. The competition team, which was restored by the Department of Communication this year, has only competed in debate since October.

The novice championship was won by the team of Michael Elizondo (freshman, undeclared) and Daria Micovic (freshman, undeclared), who defeated CSU-Fullerton on a 3-0 decision in the final debate. Elizondo and Micovic had already racked up four wins in the preliminary rounds and advanced through the semifinal debate when their opponents had to concede due to illness.

Debate USC

In the junior varsity division, Zachary Reshovsky (junior, international studies) partnered with Felipe Rivera from Whitman College on a “swing” team that gained the JV championship on the 2-1 decision over Monmouth College from New Jersey. Reshovsky was also named the 2nd place individual speaker of the tournament.

Program director Dr. Michael Souders said winning these tournaments shows how quickly the team is progressing.

“Winning is great. It’s the immediate competitive goal every time,” he said. “It means our students are working hard, know the issues and are learning good argument techniques.”

Still, Souders says, winning at these levels isn’t the benchmark.

“At the novice and junior varsity level, what I’m really looking forward for is skill progress—these are training grounds for varsity competition because debating well is what sets up for success at higher levels of competition,” he said.

Micovic, though, appreciated the win itself. Remarking on the win Micovic said, “It was nice to see that I have made an improvement [from earlier in the season]. I know I’ve improved, but it was good to have a physical award to show for it.”

McKenna Mains and Rebecca Petrone debate against Fresno State at the Alan Nichols Debate Tournament.

McKenna Mains and Rebecca Petrone debate against Fresno State at the Alan Nichols Debate Tournament.

The Kathryn Klassic was the second of two consecutive tournaments the UW debate program attended. Earlier in the week, UW debaters competed at the University of Southern California Alan Nichols Tournament, where the team of McKenna Mains (freshman, undeclared) and Rebecca Petrone (freshman, political science) placed 3rd in the junior varsity division, with Mains being named the 8th place speaker of the tournament. A second team consisting of Zachary Maghirang (sophomore, communication studies) and Reshovsky also reached the elimination rounds. Maghirang was named the 2nd place speaker of the USC tournament.

Souders commented that Mains and Petrone’s advancement to the eliminations debates was a particularly good sign.

“The progress McKenna and Rebecca are making is excellent,” he said. “Despite starting the year with zero experience in policy debate, they have moved up from the novice division to junior varsity and achieved success. That’s exactly what we’re looking for. I don’t keep them in lower divisions to collect trophies—I want them to be challenged by harder competition.”

Petrone agreed that junior varsity division was a step up.

“In the JV division they talk a lot faster and they go more in depth on their arguments,” she said. “It makes it more of challenge to support what you’re saying and disprove their arguments.”

Senior Tim Pollard (electrical engineering) and sophomore Dylan Thomas (electrical engineering) also competed at the tournaments in the varsity division, achieving a 3-3 record at USC and a 2-4 record at CSU-Fullerton.

“Tim and Dylan are making the big jump to varsity,” Souders said. “We had no expectation of the team being able to break even at a major tournament like CSU-Fullerton this year. Most of the top teams in the nation were here, so I’m pleased.”