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KU reaches quarterfinals at National Debate Tournament

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

LAWRENCE – After several rounds of competition over the past several days, the University of Kansas Debate Team reached the quarterfinals before ending their run at the 71st National Debate Tournament.

Jacob Hegna and Henry Walter were the highest finishers for KU, reaching the quarterfinals of the tournament on Monday. This year’s competition was hosted by KU at the Edwards Campus in Overland Park. KU was represented by three teams:

  • Hegna, sophomore from Overland Park, majoring in computer science and mathematics; and Walter, sophomore from Overland Park, majoring in economics and political science.
  • Quaram Robinson, junior from Round Rock, Texas, pre-law and majoring in African and African-American studies; and Kyndall Delph, freshman from Little Rock, Arkansas, majoring in English. They advanced to the Round of 16.
  • Chris Birzer, senior from Leawood, majoring in mathematics with a minor in chemistry; and Madison Cook, senior from Shawnee, majoring in political science and history. They advanced to the Doubles Round.

“I am so proud of our debaters. They have had an exceptional season and gave a tremendous performance at the tournament. The whole team, whether they were in the tournament or supporting from the sidelines, worked tirelessly to prepare for each round of this competition,” said Scott Harris, the David P. Pittaway Director of Debate at KU.

KU was one of six universities with three qualifying teams in the tournament. The others were Emory University, Harvard University, University of Michigan, Northwestern University and Wake Forest University.

This is the first time the tournament was hosted by KU. A total of 156 debaters, representing 44 universities, competed. The National Debate Tournament is the oldest collegiate policy debate tournament in the country. Nearly 300 universities nationwide have competed in the tournament.

The season was filled with several other highlights for the KU Debate Team:

  • Quaram Robinson placed as the ninth overall top speaker and Jacob Hegna, 18th, at the National Debate Tournament.
  • Robinson and Amit Bhatla were named to the All-American Debate team. Additionally, eight KU debaters were named to the All-Academic Debate teams: Bhatla, Chris Birzer, Mac Cook, Jacob Hegna, Will Katz, Henry Walter, Robinson and Lainey Schrag.
  • All three KU debate teams that competed at the Cross Examination Debate Association national tournament qualified for the elimination rounds. The KU teams of Amit Bhatla/Saif Bajwa and Chris Fry/Will Katz both made it to the final 16 at the tournament. The team of Lainey Schrag/Tyler Woodcock lost a 2-1 split decision in the round of 32.
  • At the National Junior Division National Championship Tournament, Schrag and Woodcock took first place. This is the fourth consecutive year KU has won the tournament, which is for students in their first two years of college debate. Three other KU teams reached the quarterfinals of the tournament: Julia Henry and Zoe Crater; Bajwa and Fry; and Colton Glasscock and Spencer Sosalla-Bahr. KU students also were recognized among the top 10 individual speakers at the tournament: Julia Henry (second place), Sosalla-Bahr (fourth), Woodcock (fifth), Fry (sixth) and Schrag (eighth).

KU Debate has won the National Debate Tournament championship five times in its history. The most recent championship team, Brett Bricker and Nate Johnson, brought home the trophy in 2009. Bricker is now assistant coach for the KU Debate squad.

KU has qualified for the National Debate Tournament in 66 of the 71 years of the tournament’s existence. The university also has had a team reach the final four at least once every decade since the tournament began in 1947, reaching its first final four in 1948 and most recently last year. KU has advanced to the final four 15 times.

The KU Debate Team is part of the Department of Communication Studies in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. 

Photo: Jacob Hegna (left) and Henry Walter, both sophomores, advanced to the quarterfinals in the 71st National Debate Tournament.