Debate Team Argues Its Way to the Top

Leo Zhang

With the recent win at the University of Rochester debate competition and a more than respectable result at Claremont McKenna College, it looks like Colgate’s debate team is on its way to another successful debating season. The promising results from these early competitions will provide the confidence needed to propel the team to wins at future events.

Colgate entered the University of Rochester competition with three teams of two. Every team cruised through the preliminary rounds and made it to the finals, which consisted of only four teams. One duo, sophomore Andrew Elderidge and senior Stephen West, was able to beat out teams from Cornell University, St. John’s University, University of Vermont and Rochester Institute of Technology to capture the title, with the other two Colgate teams placing third and fourth in the competition.

“We didn’t really know what to expect going into it,” West said, “but all our teams did really well. It is so impressive to have all three teams make it to the finals.”

Though none of the teams won at Claremont, Colgate still had a respectable showing. According to first-year Ryan Nelson, Claremont was an unforgettable experience that helped him become a better debater.

“Colgate sends freshmen to competitions right out of the gate,” Nelson said. “My first experience with college debate put me in touch with other debaters all over the country. To see and combat with other teams is really valuable for my debating skills.”

Because first-years get the same opportunities as juniors and seniors, they get the experience needed to prepare for competitions in future years, which enables the Colgate Debate Team to send such talented and experienced members to these competitions.

So how do they prepare for and choose members for the events? According to sophomore Alexandra Pons, the club holds mock trials. Those with the highest scores get to represent Colgate at the competitions. These trials help the team members see what the actual meet will be like. Aside from the pressure that comes with competition, the level of intensity between the practice and actual trials is pretty much the same.

Members of the club need to keep up with current events in order to compete with the best.

“We practice by keeping up with world news and reading The Economist,” Pons said. “It’s like the debater’s bible.”

The debate team hopes to repeat the successful season they had last year. By placing sixteenth at Worlds and fourth at Nationals, there is no doubt that expectations for the team are high.

“We are one of the best teams in the nation. We hope to showcase our talents again this year,” Pons said.

The club is currently preparing for Ivy Week, which is held at Yale University this year. Other upcoming events include the British Nationals in Oxford, England from November 5th through 16th, the Canadian Nationals at McGill University in Montreal, Canada in late November, Worlds in Quark, Ireland over the winter break and the Nationals at the University of Vermont next spring. Their goal for this year is straightforward: do the best they can at every competition they enter. At Worlds, they hope to move into the elimination round, which means placing in the top 32 of the 308 teams competing.

“If we accomplish this, we will be known as one of the best debating teams in the world,” West said.

Besides doing well at competitions, the club wishes to bring the Nationals to Colgate University next year. By placing second for this year’s bid, Colgate is determined to bring the competition to campus in 2010.