UW Debate makes strong showing at national championship, recognized for academic achievement

UW Debate closes out the Western Policy Debate Championship in semifinals and takes home eight speaker awards.

UW Debate closes out the Western Policy Debate Championship in semifinals and takes home eight speaker awards.

The University of Washington Debate Union ended its competition season on a high note, barely missing out on reaching the single-elimination phase of the Cross-Examination Debate Association (CEDA) National Championship tournament. The CEDA National tournament, which came on the heels of two very successful tournaments by the Debate Union, represents the most important open-entry tournament in the nation for intercollegiate policy debate.

UW was represented at CEDA by two teams. Sophomore Michael Elizondo and junior Zachary Maghirang started out the tournament strong, winning their first two debates in preliminary competition, but won only one of the six remaining debates to finish with a 3-5 record. Freshman Christine Smet and her partner from Whitman College, senior Emma Thompson, recovered from a one win result after three rounds to be one win away from the single-elimination phase of the tournament—but fell to a strong team from Kansas State University in the eighth round of preliminary competition and finished with four wins and four losses. Teams have to win five of the eight preliminary rounds to advance to the single-elimination phase.

The result was a significant step in the growth of the UW debate program. At last year’s CEDA Nationals, UW’s strong team received a 3-5 record and did not reach a “break” round—that is, a round where a win would send the team into the single elimination phase. Debate Union Director Dr. Michael Souders was pleased with the result.

“It was exciting,” Souders said. “That is the first opportunity we’ve had for a single team to break into the top tier of competition in intercollegiate policy debate. [Smet and Thompson] were close and that’s all you can ask.”

The CEDA tournament followed two very successful tournaments for the University of Washington program.

At the Western Policy Debate Championship, four UW teams closed out the junior varsity division of the regional competition at the semi-final level, bringing UW the regional junior varsity championship and ending the tournament without the need for the semifinal or final debates. Senior Zachary Reshovsky and junior Dylan Thomas led the way, accumulating six wins and no losses in preliminary competition to earn the top seed, but UW was so strong that only one UW team had to debate in the quarterfinals.

Michael Elizondo (L) and Zachary Maghirang finished the weekend at the National Junior Division Debate Tournament in the quarterfinals - on Maghirang's 21st birthday.

Michael Elizondo (L) and Zachary Maghirang finished the weekend at the National Junior Division Debate Tournament in the quarterfinals – on Maghirang’s 21st birthday.

Sophomores McKenna Mains and Rebecca Petrone defeated a team from Monmouth College on a 3-0 decision in the quarterfinals to ensure that UW filled out the entire semi-finals bracket. Overall, the UW teams claimed 23 wins and only suffered two losses in the competition. Reshovsky-Thomas and Mains-Petrone shared the championship with two other UW teams: Freshmen Rohan Hiatt and Keanan Taute and the team of Elizondo and Maghirang.

Just a week later, UW also made a very strong showing at the National Junior Division Debate Tournament (NJDDT) held in Overland Park, Kansas, widely understood to be the most difficult tournament for first- and second-year competitors in the nation. Just last year, the team of Maghirang and Reshovsky made a surprise appearance in the single elimination phase of the NJDDT, recovering from three straight losses in the opening three rounds to reach a preliminary record of 4-3 before falling to a team from the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) in the first elimination round. This year, the team of Elizondo and Maghirang not only reached the single elimination phase, but defeated a team from the University of Kansas in the first elimination debate to reach the quarterfinals, ultimately falling to an eventual finalist team from the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO). The result was good enough to earn Elizondo and Maghirang fifth-place at the junior national championship tournament.

“Just like last year, when ninth-place at the NJDDT was our best result of the year, this year’s fifth place result is our best trophy of the year,” Souders said. “The University of Kansas team that ultimately won the [NJDDT] tournament went on to receive ninth-place at the CEDA national championship, so this tournament is very strong. I’m very happy with the result.”

Academic Awards

Earlier in the year, the Debate Union competed at West Point in New York. They took a break to explore Times Square.

Earlier in the year, the Debate Union competed at West Point in New York. They took a break to explore Times Square.

For the second consecutive year the UW Debate Union has received recognition for academic performance, including having a team member receive intercollegiate policy debate’s highest academic award for the second year in row. In all, four different UW competitors were recognized for their academic performance.

Leading the way was senior Zachary Reshovsky, who was named a National Debate Scholar, summa cum laude status by CEDA, the governing organization of intercollegiate policy debate in the United States. Summa cum laude status is the highest status awarded to competitors for academic achievement. This is the second time that Reshovsky, also a recipient of the prestigious Yenching Scholarship, has been recognized with the award.

Three other UW competitors also received academic recognition: Senior Peyton Laughlin, a communication major, and junior Adam Anderson were recognized at National Debate Scholars at the cum laude status. Junior Zachary Maghirang, also a communication major, was named an Honorable Mention National Debate Scholar for his academic performance.

“Our program’s Code of Conduct holds our competitors to rigorous academic standards,” Sounders said, “but I think it comes easily to them. Debate is an academic sport and you’d expect us to succeed in classes.”

“What I like about these awards is that it shows that even among debaters, our competitors are high achievers in classroom as well as in debates.”