K-State takes first place in national debate tournament

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After debating all weekend and for 16 hours straight Monday, sophomores in political science John Grice and Derek Ziegler took home first place awards in the Junior Varsity/Novice National Debate Tournament, a college-level tournament reserved for first- and second-year debaters.

Grice and Ziegler, who were a team, took home first place in the team debate category and Ziegler won first place in the individual speaker category.

“We worked incredibly hard for this competition,” Grice said. “It was a really great experience to make a goal – to say we’re going to win this tournament – and to accomplish that goal, and to also upset the undefeated team, Towson college.”

The tournament took place at Towson University in Towson, Md., which houses one of the most competitive debate teams in the nation.

“It was kind of cool to beat Towson at their own school,” Grice said. “They bring in their whole team [to watch the debates] and essentially give as much support as possible, which almost makes the judges really want to vote for them immediately.”

Grice said there was a lot of emotion from the host school when the winners were announced, but he and Ziegler just picked up their trophy and left.

“We had been debating for two days straight, and we had had four debates that day,” Grice said. “We were so exhausted that night, we just went right to sleep. It didn’t really set in that we’d won until I woke up the next morning.”

The debate began at 10 a.m. Saturday, and concluded at 11 p.m. Monday. Each team had four debates each day. The topic disputed through the weekend was a decrease in agricultural subsidies. Grice said he and Ziegler would argue for the decrease in their first debate, and after each argument they won, the would debate against it in the next round.

“K-State’s a great school to represent when you’re debating about agriculture,” said Sarah Green, assistant director of debate and team coach. “It feels really good to win, and it’s great to have some national acclaim to K-State debate to heighten awareness about the team.”

Green said all the teams have worked “incredibly hard” this semester, and the average work her policy debaters do in a school year is equivalent to that of master’s-level student working on a thesis.

“[Ziegler] in particular probably does in excess of 20 hours of debate work a week,” she said.

Ziegler said he has been debating since high school and jokingly described the debate team as “a big nerd-fest.”

“You get to spend a lot of time researching and learning a topic really deeply,” he said. “You kind of find a sense of pride in knowing a lot of things about a topic and to be able to compete with people at the collegiate level for it.”

Ziegler said the best part about winning the team and individual categories of the tournament was knowing the majority of judges thought he was speaking better than the Towson competitors.

“The [Towson] students spoke very, very well and they’re very intelligent,” he said. “They definitely knew what they were talking about. [Grice] and I both were definitely surviving off of Redbull during our last round in finals.”

Green said teams that competed in the tournament came from universities across the nation from California to New York. Last year, she said K-State took second in the competition, and it was “really exciting” to take first this year.

“It feels awesome,” she said. “It’s a really large tournament, so it feels good to win.”

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