Debate Team Excels in Nationwide Tournaments

The Liberty debate team has two tournaments under its belt in the 2021-2022 season, and the top partnership is making Liberty history. 

Senior Natalie Robinson and junior Kat Cazeau are the first team to begin the season with top-5 finishes and top-3 speaker awards at back-to-back tournaments according to a debate team press release. 

The team finished in the quarterfinal Sept. 19 after losing to Harvard with a 2-1 decision at Northwestern University. Robinson was named the tournament’s top speaker, and Cazeau was named the third best speaker.

At the University of Kentucky on Oct. 4, they reached the final round but lost to Michigan with a 2-1 decision. Once again, Robinson was named the tournament’s top speaker, and Cazeau followed as the second-best speaker.  

The pair beat debaters from Dartmouth, Wake Forest, University of Michigan, George Mason, University of Wyoming and Georgetown.

Robinson said she joined debate in 2018 to meet friends and give her argumentative mind an outlet. Before joining, she knew nothing about debate, and now she has ranked as the top speaker at two consecutive tournaments.

“I came in as a novice,” Robinson said. “I had no idea what this activity had in store for me. I was just like ‘it would be fun’, so I did it. It’s been kind of surreal.”

Cazeau began her debate career in high school after she helped found the debate team during her freshman year. Her coach reached out to Director Michael Hall and helped Cazeau join Liberty’s debate team in 2019. 

There are 23 debaters on the team, and for tournaments, the debaters are paired with another person to create their team. According to Hall, Liberty will take 10 or 11 teams to each tournament for both varsity and junior varsity. 

Robinson and Cazeau had never debated together before this season, but they found commonalities in each other that strengthened both their friendship and their team. 

“I do feel like this success is just an outgrowth of relationality and what it means to be a Black woman in relation to each other,” Cazeau said. “I feel like … that point of what we have in common spills over into the types of arguments we make in debate, which brings us closer as a partnership.”

One of the first steps to preparing for their debate season is researching their chosen topic. Hall said teams focus on one single topic for the whole year, and they spend between 15 to 20 hours a week researching and preparing.

“[Research] involves a lot of time in libraries, behind a computer, doing online research and then taking the information that the students find and turning it into usable evidence that they can introduce into a debate to support their side of the argument,” Hall said.

Robinson and Cazeau said they both have strengthened their time management skills because of the debate team, but they believe the most important takeaway from the team is the friendships. 

“It’s been kind of the best thing in the world to just have a roomful of nerds that I can go argue with whenever I want, and to just be able to know that I have that support system whenever things get a little intense,” Robinson said. “I know my team has my back, and that’s been everything to me.”

Cazeau said the team is close knit and quick to welcome new members. She believes the team offers a sense of community. 

The Debate Team has three more tournaments for the fall semester. National team rankings will be announced in December. Robinson and Cazeau are both hopeful they can to be successful in future tournaments.

Fitch is a news reporter. Follow her on Twitter.

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