UW Debate Union repeats as JV champs, young competitors make impression at UC-Berkeley tournaments

The sophomore team of Michael Elizondo and McKenna Mains with their first place trophy. They were co-champions of the JV competition with fellow UW debaters Rohan Hiatt and Keanan Taute.

The sophomore team of Michael Elizondo and McKenna Mains with their first place trophy. They were co-champions of the JV competition with fellow UW debaters Rohan Hiatt and Keanan Taute.

Last year, the nation’s largest winter break policy debate tournaments were held in Southern California. This year, the tournaments moved northward, to the UC-Berkeley campus outside San Francisco. For the UW Debate Union policy debate team, it made no difference.

Like last year, UW walked away with a junior varsity championship in the Cal Swing 2 tournament. The championship was won in style, with two separate teams going undefeated in preliminary competition. Seeded first and second in the single elimination round both teams received byes in the quarterfinals before winning both semifinal debates on 3-0 decisions to eliminate the need for a final debate round.

The team of sophomores Michael Elizondo (Pre-Social Science) and McKenna Mains (Political Science) defeated six straight opponents in preliminary competition, including teams from the University of Oklahoma, the University of Rochester and SUNY-Binghamton. In the semi-final debate, Elizondo and Mains defeated a combined CSU-Sacramento and Oklahoma team to reach the final round.

In similar fashion, freshmen Rohan Hiatt (Pre-Science) and Keanan Taute (Pre-Major) also defeated all six of their preliminary round opponents before defeating a University of Nevada-Las Vegas team in the semi-final debate.

In college policy debate, when two teams from the same school meet in an elimination round debate, no debate occurs. In most elimination rounds, the director of the program determines which team advances. If two teams from the same school meet in the final round, both are awarded first-place. Adding the trophy hardware, all four junior varsity competitors received awards for quality debating, led by Elizondo who was named as second-place individual speaker.

For Elizondo, winning the tournament came with an added bonus: He was promoted by rule to varsity competition for the rest of his college debate career. The government body of college policy debate, Cross-Examination Debate Association (CEDA), forces automatic division promotion after a competitor has achieved a certain track record of success to encourage competitors to compete in the varsity division and to prevent competitors from staying in lower divisions just to collect trophies.

“It’s a great achievement for both Michael and the Debate Union,” said UW Debate Union program director Michael Souders. “Michael started last year with zero experience in policy debate and he’s moved up through the ranks from the novice division to junior varsity and now varsity. In less than a season and a half, he’s onto debating in varsity for two and a half years. It’s exactly the kind of progression I want to see.”

The team win at the Cal Swing 2 was good follow-up to the Cal Swing 1 tournament just a few days earlier, where both junior varsity teams performed but fell just short of winning the tournament. At that tournament Elizondo and Mains went 5-1 in preliminary competition, received a bye in the quarterfinal and “stepped over” Hiatt and Taute before falling the final round to the University of Oklahoma on a 2-1 decision. Hiatt and Taute achieved a 4-2 preliminary record and defeated a CSU-Northridge team on a 3-0 decision before being paired against Elizondo and Mains. Hiatt and Taute stepped aside to let the higher seeded team of Elizondo and Mains advance to the final. Senior Peyton Laughlin (Communication) also competed in the junior varsity in a mixed partnership with a competitor from UNLV, achieving a strong 3-3 preliminary round record.

Rohan Hiatt and Keanan Taute, both freshmen, pose with their prize.

Rohan Hiatt and Keanan Taute, both freshmen, pose with their prize.

“Peyton is a novice who had only debated in a single tournament prior to the Cal Swing tournaments,” Souders said, “so winning half of her debates in the junior varsity division is a strong showing.”

UW was also represented by three varsity debate teams. At the Cal Swing 1 tournament, UW had six total teams—it’s largest presence at a tournament to date.

“Considering the very first tournament our program competed in was less than 15 months ago and we started with just two novice teams and a JV team, I’m very happy,” Souders said. “We have great support from the Department of Communication and we continue to grow.”

While the UW junior varsity teams topped out their division, the UW varsity teams faced much greater challenges. Both the team of first-year Christine Smet (American Ethic Studies) and junior Zach Maghirang (Communication) and the team of Rebecca Petrone (Pre-Social Science) and Whitman College senior Emma Thompson achieved a 2-4 preliminary record at the Cal Swing 1 tournament and 1-5 record at the Cal Swing 2 tournament. Seniors Dylan Thomas (Applied Physics) and Zachary Reshovsky (International Studies) received records of 0-6 at both tournaments.

“Our varsity team is really young and inexperienced and the Cal Swing tournaments are among the most competitive in the nation,” assistant coach Tim Pollard said. “We’re not at all discouraged by those records. Rebecca, for example, was a true novice with no debate experience a year ago and is now competing in varsity. Christine is a true first-year just off her first quarter in college. It says a lot more about the level of competition we’re facing. These competitors are going to be good. Results will come.”