Working out the kinks

Liberty’s debate team rebounds from losing start to post a winning record

The Liberty debate team posted a 55-41 record at the University of Mary Washington tournament Oct. 9-12 following a 50-60 record at the Georgia State tournament Sept. 19-21.

Their record at the end of preliminary rounds during the Georgia State tournament, their first tournament of the season, gave them a losing record for the first time in recent history.

Equipped — Debate knowledge was passed on to the youth during a summer camp hosted for high school students. Photo credit: Kevin Manguiob

Equipped — Debate knowledge was passed on to the youth during a summer camp hosted for high school students. Photo credit: Kevin Manguiob

Debate Director Michael Hall explained many of their problems stemmed from a lack of foundational skills among the novice debaters along with evidence and research gaps.

“At the open division, we really did what we thought we would do at that tournament,” Hall said. “Junior varsity was strong in the (preliminaries) and then … had some rough debates in the elimination rounds, and that happens. … Once you get to the elimination rounds, one loss and you are out. But in the novice division we … had more systemic issues where we were losing a lot of debates in the novice division that we would have liked to have won, and that had a lot to do with skill development.”

Students and coaches dedicated a great deal of time addressing these problems after the Georgia State tournament in preparation for their next tournament at Rutgers-Newark Sept. 24-27, and according to Hall, that hard work paid off. Liberty finished preliminary rounds with a 43-35 record with seven of their 13 teams qualifying for elimination rounds. The junior varsity team of Jeleesa Omala and Rakeem Robinson emerged from the preliminary rounds as the No. 1 overall seed and went on to win the division.

The upswing continued at the University of Mary Washington tournament, which Hall described as their best tournament of the year so far. Seven of the 12 teams advanced to the elimination rounds. The team of Moriah Wierschem and Amanda Dabney won the junior varsity division while Brianna Thomas and Brianna Gulchuck received second place in the novice division after losing in the final round.

Hall hopes that the improvements will continue as the team progresses through the rest of the season.

“We have goals that we set at the beginning of each year, and some of those goals stay the same from year to year and some of them change depending on our particular teams,” Hall said.

“One of the goals that stayed the same this year from past years is to finish ranked first (at the end of the season) in each of the debate organizations that we debate in. … Another goal is to advance a team to the elimination rounds of the national tournament, which means essentially to be in the top 25 of a field of 78. In debate terms, it is kind of the equivalent of making the Sweet 16 for individual two-person teams.”

The tournaments are not just about competing as Hall also sees them as an opportunity to glorify God.

“I think we go into (tournaments) with the idea that all of what we do competitively is an attempt to use the gifts that God has given us in a way that honors him, and we are going to do that in a way that edifies each other (and builds) each other up,” Hall said. “So I think God takes pleasure in seeing his children be excellent with the gifts that he has given them and in the areas that he has given them passion for.”

The Liberty team will compete at West Point Military Academy Oct. 22-25. Hall expects to see continued improvement as he hopes to see a Liberty team win each of the three divisions. The team will also look to defend their current title as tournament champions the past two years running.

Lapp is a news reporter.

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