Debate team finishes strong in national championship

Kylie McDonald (right), junior political science major, preps Abby Williams, sophomore English and music double major, for her final round. | Photo by Amelia Krauss

By Allison Bucknell, Staff Writer

Debate Team Award Winners

Professional Debate:

  • Second place speaker: Seth Brake
  • Octo-finalists: Amanda Bennett, Seth Brake, Jordan Hughey, Kylie McDonald and Lowell Van Ness

Varsity Debate:

  • Champion: Abby Williams
  • Sixth place speaker: Abby Williams
  • Semi-finalist: Ali Holcomb
  • Quarter finalist: David Knack
  • Octo-finalist: Jordan Hayes
  • Varsity debate double octo–finalists: Leanna Cargile, Kevin Moss, Kaleb Noblett, Vicki Searl and Emily Welborn

Novice Debate:

  • Third place speaker: Hunter Cochran
  • Octo-finalist: Katherine Burgess
  • Double octo-finalist: Courtney Brown

The fourth year for Union University’s Debate Club came to a close April 15, with the team placing second in the national championship tournament at the University of Louisiana–Shreveport.

Dr. Web Drake, associate professor of communication arts and director of debate, said placing second was an “affirmation of the excellence that is expected from students (at Union).”

“I think the (season) went really well,” said Abby Williams, sophomore English and music double major. “I learned and grew a lot.”

Williams claimed the Varsity  Division  National Championship Award  for this year’s tournament, marking her as the first debater from Union’s team to earn a  national award.

“When they announced that she won, there was an ecstatic excitement.” said Jordan Hughey, senior biology major and charter member of the debate club. “As a team, we had won the national tournament but never an individual (division) tournament.”

The debate team was one point away from winning the Founder’s Award,  but Nicole Haynes, senior art and psychology double major and captain of the debate team, said she views the loss as an opportunity to showcase the four cornerstone qualities that drive education at Union.

“We share the Gospel more by the way we lose than by the way we win,” she said. “When you can lose with graciousness and respect, the other teams pay attention to that (attitude).”

Drake added about his team, “They don’t like to lose, and they don’t want to, but they do lose differently than other teams. They have a higher calling and different mission.

“It’s easy to be a gracious winner, but being a gracious loser gives you opportunities that winning doesn’t.”

The debate team had a good run this season, living up to the expectations of its members and those of the debate circuit.

“(It was) a really good season, even though we didn’t go to as many tournaments as we would have liked,” Hughey said. “There was no room to have an off-tournament.”

Not being able to participate in more tournaments presented a challenge for the team, which made it to only six tournaments, which is the minimum number to qualify for nationals.

Despite a tight run, the debate club’s shining moments came with winning two tournaments, three sweepstakes, three different novice tournaments and the varsity division national championship.

Haynes said that the season was hard but rewarding for the whole team.

“We’ve been blessed; even though we compete individually, it’s a team sport,” she said.

One of the things that Haynes said she enjoys about being captain of the debate team is that there is no need to set high expectations for each individual because each member is dedicated and involved.

“They have enough expectations for themselves, and because of that, they give it their all,” she said.

Expectations had been high for the debate team since the beginning of the season in August, and the result of the group’s hard work and dedication paid off, bringing a great honor to the university.

“We have a great school, with great teachers and incredibly gifted students,” Drake said. “So it’s only natural to expect excellence from a team that comes from a school that is excellence-driven.”


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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.