The Trinity debate team members Austen Yorko, Drew Sposeep, Ansh Khullar and Ian Dill competed at the National Debate Tournament this past week.
The tournament has been in existence for over 60 years according to Will Mosley Jensen, communications professor and debate coach, and was hosted by the University of Kansas.
“The tournament has been in existence since 1946, and it was originally hosted by the US Military Academy the idea was that they would essentially invite all the best debate teams from around the country to compete in one central, national tournament, and crown one team as the top team in the country. In 1969 though, they decided not to fund the tournament and now it’s hosted by a different university each year. This year it was hosted by the University of Kansas,” Mosley said.
78 teams from around the country debate for four days in the National Debate Tournament.
“So this year we went to Kansas City, and it takes four days, so it’s a long, strenuous competition with multiple debates each day. They invite the top 78 teams from around the country. So we qualify through a district, which are various geographic regions throughout the country. So we’re in District Three, pretty much the most difficult district to get out of, with the most teams competing,” Mosley said.
Sophomore Emily Peter described her understanding of how impressive it is to be part of such an intense competition.
“I did debate in high school, and it was a ton of work then. Doing it in college is a whole different level, so I’m really impressed that those guys made it so far, especially the first years. It’s just really cool to hear about those sorts of things and know that I go, we all go, to a school where people are doing great things like that,” Peter said.
Mosley said that the debates centered around the restriction of greenhouse gas emissions, and were informed by current events.
“This year’s resolution was about restricting greenhouse gas emissions, which was very interesting in the context of the Trump administration. Our research changed a lot after the election, obviously there were a lot of changes with that. So teams around the country come prepared to defend their side of the issue,” Mosley said.
First year Ian Dill, who advanced with his partner to the elimination rounds, described how debate, to him, is the process of finding the truth.
“This year’s topic was on emissions restrictions, so how to restrict greenhouse gas emissions, and how best to solve climate change. So the whole thing about debate is it’s not necessarily black and white. The way that the truth is sought is by switching sides and defending both sides of the issue. So sometimes that means defending some extremist stuff and stuff that isn’t necessarily closest to the truth. Debate is the process of evaluating those claims, and the judge’s decision is deciding what was the closest to the truth, or what was best argued. So sometimes that decision comes at the expense of the truth in favor of argument. In the end, by virtue of switching sides so often, I think you do end up getting closer to the truth yourself,” Dill said.
Preparation for the debates begins months in advance, and culminates with the debate team having full practices over spring break.
“Preparation is a pretty long process. Pretty much from the Wednesday before the tournament to the Wednesday we arrived at the tournament, we were working pretty much non-stop, practicing speeches, researching. It was about eight to nine hours a day on those seven days, but a couple hours a day leading up to that. So that’s what our spring break looked like, but it was definitely worth it,” Dill said.
Dill describes the drive it took to make it to the NDT and be successful.
“I just really enjoy debate, it’s been one of my favorite things since doing it in high school. Even now that I’m here and on scholarship for debate, I think it’s still just the love of the activity and being in debates, and even just the community that debate is. They’re good people to be around, it’s enjoyable, and it’s just great to be able to succeed in that space. Not to mention the competitive drive in me that just makes me want to win,” Dill said.
This is the first time trinity had ever had a first year team make it to the elimination rounds at the NDT, a historic achievement.
“Trinity, in it’s history, has never qualified a first year team before, so we were really excited about that. This is the fourth or fifth time we’ve participated in the elimination rounds, so that’s a pretty historic thing. Of all the first year teams, Trinity had the best, and they ranked the best out all them, ranking 18 over the next first year team from Kentucky that ranked 22nd,” Mosley said.