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Liberty Debate Starts the 2019-2020 Season on a Winning Streak

 Flames win the novice and junior varsity divisions at their first two tournaments while varsity team excels.

 There were many question marks surrounding the Liberty debate team as they entered the 2019-2020 season.  The Flame’s lost their five most experienced debaters, including one of the nation’s top partnerships in Brianna Thomas and Michael Harrington.  Liberty returned two juniors and seven sophomores while adding fifteen freshmen to create the youngest squad in program history.

“We’ve never had a team this young,” said Director of Debate Michael Hall.  “We’ve had a few teams in the past without senior leadership, but those teams had a larger group of juniors and sophomores.  With a team this young, I worry more about leadership than talent.  We need students to lead our team toward a culture of excellence.  The early results have been promising.”

The Flames started the season with three consecutive tournaments at Georgia State, Binghamton University, and the University of Kentucky.  At Georgia State, Liberty entered six teams in the novice division (for students in their first year of competitive debate), five teams in the junior varsity division (for students in their first two years of competitive debate), and one team in the varsity division (for experienced debaters).

Liberty won both the novice and junior varsity divisions, defeating teams from Emory, Wake Forest, Indiana, Houston, James Madison, and George Mason.  In novice, the Flames had three of the four semi-final teams.  Top-seeded Ellie Pruski and Savannah Rose Snyder advanced over fifth-seeded Daniel Gibson and Bryce Jones to reach the final round.  In the other semi-final debate, the third-seeded team of Colin Baker and Dillon Jones defeated James Madison to advance to the final round and lock up first and second place for the Flames.  Justice Wallenmeyer and Ryan Wittstock earned the junior varsity championship by defeating the top-seeded team from Houston in the final round.

The following weekend, Liberty’s novice and junior varsity teams traveled to Binghamton University where they continued their dominance by defeating teams from Cornell, NYU, the United States Military Academy, the United States Naval Academy, Monmouth, and George Mason to once again win both the novice and junior varsity divisions.  Five of Liberty’s six novice teams advanced to the elimination rounds where the second-seeded team of Daniel Gibson and Bryce Jones defeated the top-seeded team from the United States Military Academy in the final round.  Liberty also claimed five of the top-ten speaker awards in the novice division.  Four of Liberty’s five junior varsity teams advanced to the elimination rounds where three teams advanced to the semifinal round.  Top-seeded Morgan Copeland and Emily Schwab advanced over fourth-seeded Rachel Solsman and Addison Wagner, while third-seeded Justice Wallenmeyer and Ryan Wittstock defeated George Mason to secure first and second place for the Flames.  Liberty’s junior varsity squad earned seven of the top twelve speaker awards, led by Copeland (top speaker), Schwab (second speaker).

Meanwhile, sophomores Jared DeMunbrun and Maverick Edwards announced their arrival in the varsity division by defeating Harvard, Georgetown, Indiana, and Kansas on their way to a 5-3 record in preliminary rounds.  DeMunbrun and Edwards narrowly missed qualifying for the elimination rounds, finishing as the 36th seed out of 122 total teams (the top 32 teams advance to elimination rounds).

Two weekends later, DeMunbrun and Edwards traveled to the University of Kentucky where they defeated teams from Harvard, Michigan State, Trinity, Wayne State, and Binghamton to advance to elimination rounds with a 5-3 record as the 29th seed.  The Flames’ tournament ended with a loss to Northwestern in the round of 32.

Assistant Director of Debate, Nick Ryan, is encouraged by DeMunbrun and Edward’s strong start.  “It’s exciting to see Jared and Maverick have a great start to their sophomore season, said Ryan. “They have put in a lot of work, and it is good to see them reaping the rewards of that work with strong wins against teams from Harvard, Georgetown, Indiana, Kansas, and Michigan State. It’s a long season, but there’s potential for them to have one of the best sophomore seasons in program history.”

The Flames continue their season at the University of Mary Washington October 11-13.