LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas debate program ended the fall semester ranked No. 1 in the NDT varsity debate rankings and is off to an even better start in the spring season. Over the weekend, KU Debate had one of its best weekends ever while competing at tournaments at the University of Pittsburgh and Wichita State University.
Two KU teams, composed of Jyleesa Hampton, Overland Park, and Quaram Robinson, Round Rock, Texas, and Chris Carey, Westwood Hills, and Nick Khatri, Edina, Minnesota, were invited to participate in a round-robin tournament that involved 14 of the top-25 teams in the country hosted at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Jan. 23-25. The field was divided into 2 seven-team divisions for a round-robin format. Hampton-Robinson went 6-0 in their bracket, defeating teams from the University of Michigan, Northwestern University, Wake Forest University, Stanford University, Towson University and the University of Kentucky. They debated against the winner of the other seven-team grouping, George Mason University, and lost a 2-1 split decision in the championship debate. Robinson received the third-place individual speaker award.
Six other KU teams traveled to a tournament hosted at Wichita State University Jan. 24-26 and showed off KU Debate’s talents. All six teams qualified for the single-elimination rounds at the tournament. After the preliminary rounds the teams of Amit Bhatla, Lenexa, and Madison Cook, Shawnee, as well as Megan Mapes, Topeka, and Mikaela Wefald, Shawnee, were both 7-0 and advanced as the top-two seeds. The team of Ciera Foreman, Overland Park, and Hunter Goh, Bakersfield, California, was 6-1 and advanced as the third seed. The team of Sean Duff, Iowa City, Iowa, and Jared Nelson, Overland Park, advanced as the seventh seed, while Bradley Harris, Lawrence, and Aaron Miller, Overland Park, were the 13th seed, and Will Katz, Topeka, and Dylan Robb, Englewood, Colorado, were the 16th seed. In the elimination rounds Bhatla-Cook and Mapes-Wefald advanced through elimination rounds to remain undefeated and close out the championship debate for KU. Foreman-Goh advanced to the semifinals to take third place. Duff-Nelson finished fifth, and Harris-Miller finished ninth.
Other schools competing at the tournament included Concordia College, Minnesota; Emporia State University; Johnson County Community College; Kansas City Kansas Community College; Kansas State University; Missouri State University; the University of Northern Iowa; the University of Oklahoma; the University of Texas-Dallas; the University of Texas-San Antonio; the University of Missouri-Kansas City; the University of North Texas; the University of Washington, the University of Wyoming and Wichita State University.
“This past weekend may be the best performance by the entire squad in my twenty-four years at KU,” said Scott Harris, David B. Pittaway Director of Debate. “The depth of talent in the program is amazing. Seven different pairs of debaters have reached at least the semifinals of a tournament this year, which is remarkable.”
Associate Head Coach Brett Bricker noted that the key to the squad’s performance this season has been execution and hard work.
“All 19 students that have competed for KU this semester have advanced to elimination rounds, which is simply unheard of,” he said.
KU teams have already competed at four other tournaments in the spring semester. Leading the way for the squad this semester has been the team of Hampton-Robinson. They began the semester taking second place in a field of 105 teams in a tournament hosted by the University of Southern California from Jan. 3 to Jan. 5. They went five and one in preliminary round competition to qualify for the single-elimination rounds. In those rounds they defeated teams from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, the University of Oklahoma, the University of Michigan and the University of California at Berkeley before losing a 2-1 split decision in the championship debate to the top-ranked individual pair of debaters in the country from Northwestern University. Hampton was recognized as the third-place individual speaker at the tournament, and Robinson finished as the 20th speaker. Two other KU teams competed in the tournament and both qualified for the single elimination rounds as well. The KU pairs of Carey-Khatri and Foreman-Goh each went 4-2 in the preliminary rounds but each lost in the first elimination round.
The three teams also competed in a tournament hosted at the University of California at Fullerton Jan. 7-9. The team of Hampton-Robinson took fifth place in a field of 98 teams. After another 5-1 performance in preliminary rounds they advanced to the elimination rounds as the fifth-seeded team. In the first elimination round they advanced over the KU team of Foreman-Goh, who had qualified for elimination rounds with a 4-2 record and advanced as the 28th seed. Hampton-Robinson defeated George Mason University before losing in the quarterfinals on a 2-1 decision to the University of Michigan team that finished 2nd at last year’s National Debate Tournament. The KU team of Carey-Khatri were 1-0 in preliminary rounds but had to withdraw due to illness. Robinson was recognized as the 17th individual speaker at the tournament.
While those three KU teams competed in California, six other KU teams traveled to Texas to compete in a two tournament swing. The first tournament was hosted by the University of Texas at Dallas Jan. 5-7. The teams of Duff-Nelson and Bhatla-Cook tied for fifth place at the tournament. The team of Thomas Garvey, Valley Center, and Miller finished in ninth place at the tournament.
The second tournament was hosted by the University of North Texas Jan. 8-10. Five KU teams competed, and all five qualified for the single elimination rounds. The team of Duff-Nelson withdrew due to illness before the first debate. The team of Bhatla-Cook took fifth place at the tournament. Three other KU teams, Mapes-Wefald, Robb, and Bradley Harris, Lawrence, and Kellor Yde, Maize, all advanced to the round of 16 and finished tied for ninth place at the tournament. The team of Garvey-Miller lost in the first elimination round.
KU will wrap up the regular season at the University of Texas Feb. 6-9 before beginning post season competition. KU seeks to qualify for the National Debate Tournament for the 48th consecutive year.