Wake Debate sends three teams to nationals

Wake Forest’s prestigious 2012-13 Debate squad has lived up to its motto, “Think Hard, Talk Fast,” as the first Wake squad to send three teams to the National Debate Tournament.

Julie Huggins/Old Gold & Black

Julie Huggins/Old Gold & Black

“Ken, myself, Lee Quinn and his partner, Jacob Hurwitz, placed into the sweet sixteen elimination rounds at the NDT, another national tournament,” junior debater Richard Min said. “Joe Leduc and his partner Ian Miller placed into the elite eight at the NDT.”

To be chosen to compete in the NDT, somewhat like the American Debate Association’s version of March Madness, one of the two-member teams within a school’s squad has to be ranked amongst the top 78 teams in the nation. Usually only two debate teams can represent each school, but every year, the ADA chooses six worthy schools which will be allowed to take three teams instead of two.

“That third team — the pair of Jacob Hurwitz and Lee Quinn — was chosen as the ‘first team in,’ for Second Round bid applicants, which essentially means voters thought they were the best team that had not yet qualified for nationals,” senior debater Kenneth Bailey said.

One tricky part about how the debate competitive system works is, technically, not all of the 24 debate team members will end up with a national competition win to their name. “We define success as setting a high goal and in the process of trying to achieve it, seeing what we can become,” Jerrod Atchison, director of Wake Debate, said. “This year’s squad bought into that philosophy at every level.”

According to Atchison, three members of the team are graduating, leaving six of the NCT champions still in Wake Debate’s ranks. With a young team on its side, Wake Debate plans to continue performing successfully in competitions in the upcoming school year. As a result of this renewed passion and leadership, the program has climbed back to the heights of its best years.

“Each season the squad is closer to matching the program’s glory days of the mid-90s and early 2000s,” department of communication chair Allan Louden said. “The depth in numbers of competitive teams may be at an all-time high.”

Besides success in competitions, the program has recently strived to incorporate more debaters coming from various backgrounds. “One of the biggest changes since I was a freshman has been an increase in diversity of the program — both ideologically and demographically,” Bailey said. “In the past four years there have been definitive increases in the number of individuals from unrepresented groups on the team.”

In Bailey’s freshman year, Wake Debate had only one female member on the squad.  Four years later, about 38 percent of the team is female.

One all-female team composed of Maddie Langr and Erica Duff got all the way to Round 32 in the Cross Examination Debate Association Nationals tournament, the tournament that is only one step below NCT. The program plans to continue this process of enhancing ethnic and sexual diversity, especially since male teams often dominate the NDT.

“There definitely is a mix of perspectives, but I do agree that there are less women in the activity than would be ideal,” senior debater Ian Miller said.

Wake debaters are passionate about what they do best, and for the sake of their convincing arguments in competition, they are willing to sacrifice other opportunities like involvement in various extracurricular groups or the chance to study abroad.

“Debate has certainly augmented my skills as a communicator in my ability to speak to wide variety of audiences about any number of concepts,” Bailey said.