JACKSON, Tenn. – April 27, 2009 – Union University’s debate team, in its first year of competition, placed first in the Novice Team Sweepstakes for the entire season, an accomplishment far beyond the expectations of coach Web Drake.
“We went to seven tournaments and had a 70 percent winning percentage as a team, which is unheard of,” Drake said. “It’s incredible.”
At the end of the debate season, 21 novice teams from different schools chose their top six tournaments from the entire season to enter the sweepstakes competition. Most of the teams went to 12 tournaments, which means they had tournaments to drop, Drake said.
“We only went to six,” he said. “We couldn’t drop any tournaments. Just going to six, we still won the season-long sweepstakes award.”
Winning the award by attending only six tournaments was not the only “unheard of” feat from the team.
“The man who was giving the award at the ceremony said that never in the 11-year history of the International Public Debate Association has a team had more than 200 points on the season,” Drake said. “We had 222. We beat our nearest competitor by 22 points.”
At the team’s final competition of the season, the International Public Debate Association Championship Tournament in Bossier City, La., Union debaters won the top two speaker awards. Jordan Hughey took first place in Novice Debate Speaker competition, while Emily Welborn finished second in the same category.
Individual members of the team also won four season-long awards. Like the team award, debaters use their top six tournaments. Only four debaters from Union were eligible because they had attended all six tournaments with the team, but all four debaters placed in the top 10 for the season.
Placing as the top novice speakers in the nation were: Kate Conkling, second place; Emily Welborn, third place; Jordan Hughey, sixth place; and Andrew Roberts, ninth place.
“They met expectations,” Drake said. “They destroyed expectations.”
Next season, Drake said Union will continue with the novice squad and “add varsity in a big way. I have no doubt that they will do well in varsity.”
Eight members of the debate team will advance to varsity next season. The team will also add two or three new students entering on the varsity level, along with five novices.
By Megan Thompson (’12)