Oct 3, 2006

Varsity debate wins at King's College

by Jenni Thurman

“Try or die.” This commonly used debate lingo only begins to depict the weeks of sleepless nights and frantic research that culminate at a three-day tournament where only one thing matters— bringing home the trophy.

Not only did Liberty Debate taste victory at King’s College, their first tournament of the season, they did so with style by claiming the team’s first win at the Varsity level in three years.

The tournament, held from September 22 to 24 in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., featured stiff competition from Catholic Univ-ersity, the University of Pittsburgh and the United States Military Academy.

Despite immense pressure, the partnership of senior Nate Baldis and junior Chase McCool remained focused and relaxed on their way to winning the Varsity division, defeating Michael Kesselman and Jeff Terkowitz of Cornell University in the final round.

Baldis and McCool made a strong showing on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, winning four of six preliminary rounds and qualifying as the fourth seed for Sunday’s elimination rounds.


“I only felt the pressure during one of our preliminary rounds. From then on, we just clicked and gained momentum. It was very efficient, very fun,” said McCool.

Baldis and McCool worked their way through octafinals, quarterfinals and semifinals to secure a spot in the final round of the tournament.

“The final round was awesome. I was just sitting back the whole time with a big grin on my face, thinking, ‘We are going to win this round,’” said Baldis.

The win was especially noteworthy for McCool, who had not won a tournament since his Novice year on the debate team.

“It was very satisfying to win on this level of debate. I played sports in high school, but never accomplished anything this significant. I call it a breakthrough,” said McCool.

Debate is a sport of hierarchy, in which Novice debaters constantly observe the more experienced Varsity debaters to learn from their skill and technique. The tables have now turned for Baldis and McCool, who started out as Novices for Liberty, but have now become the Varsity debaters to watch.

“The first Varsity debate I ever watched when I was a Novice was when Liberty won this exact tournament three years ago, and now we won it,” said Baldis.

Liberty’s other teams also contributed to the powerful start to the season. In the Varsity division, senior Amanda Costa won the fourth best speaker award.

The Junior Varsity teams of Rachel Hassenpflug, a junior, Garret Halydier, a senior, and freshmen Stephanie Dillard and Janna Reynolds progressed to the semifinal rounds, finishing tied for third place. Hassenpflug was named fifth speaker in the Junior Varsity division.

Novices competed in the first tournament of their debate careers, with five out of six teams qualifying for elimination rounds. The team of Eddie Fitzgerald and Patricia Boquist, both freshmen, lost a close quarterfinal round on a 2-1 decision to Cornell University. Fitzgerald was the sixth best speaker for the Novice division.

As the defenders of all three national rankings championships, an achievement that no other squad in the history of collegiate debate has accomplished, this year’s team is facing a challenging season full of high expectations.

Brett O’Donnell, the Director of Liberty Debate, believes that while the Varsity tournament win is a positive indicator of the team’s versatility, the year long debate season has only just begun.

“One tournament doesn’t make a season. We are off to a good start, and this tournament is definitely a stepping stone, but we have to keep working hard,” he said. 

McCool remains optimistic and believes that this is a team that has the potential to repeat last season’s roaring success.

“The dynamic of this year’s team is really good. I can’t remember starting out the season so well since I’ve been on the team,” he said.

The next tournament on Liberty’s road to the championship will be held at the University of Richmond on October 14 to 16. Last year at the Richmond tournament, Liberty’s Novice and Junior Varsity teams both won their divisions.

Contact Jenni Thurman at jthurman@liberty.edu.

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