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KU opens debate season by winning major tournament

Thursday, September 21, 2017

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas debate team of seniors Quaram Robinson, of Round Rock, Texas, and Will Katz, Topeka, won the first major policy debate tournament of the year at Georgia State University in Atlanta. It was the first time KU has ever won the Georgia State tournament. 
The duo emerged victorious over a field of 110 teams from all over the country. A second KU team of juniors Jacob Hegna and Henry Walter, both of Overland Park, advanced to the Sweet 16 of the tournament. Robinson was recognized as the fifth-place individual speaker at the tournament, while Hegna finished eighth and Walter was 15th.

The pair of KU seniors debated through more than three days of competition before defeating Wake Forest University in the finals of the tournament at 1:30 a.m. Sept 19. They opened the competition on Sept. 16 with wins over the University of Kentucky, James Madison University and Northwestern University before suffering their only loss of the tournament to the University of Nevada Las Vegas. They bounced back on Sept. 17 by reeling off wins over Wake Forest University, the University of Minnesota, Gonzaga University and Harvard University to complete the preliminary rounds of the tournament with a 7-1 record and entered elimination rounds as the third seed. 

Scott Harris, the David B. Pittaway Director of Debate at KU, said, “The win over Harvard was particularly satisfying because they ended last season as the top-ranked team in the country and had ended Quaram’s season at the National Debate Tournament each of the past two years.”

The win over Harvard gave Katz/Robinson momentum heading into the elimination rounds beginning at 8 a.m. Monday. They knocked off Michigan State University in the round of 32, a different team from Harvard in the round of 16, and the University of Kentucky in the quarterfinals to advance to the semifinals. Third-seeded KU knocked off second-seeded Northwestern University in one semifinal while, top seed Wake Forest defeated fifth-seeded Harvard University in the other semifinal. The final round began at 11 p.m. and ended early Tuesday with the KU team of Katz/Robinson winning on a unanimous 3-0 decision.

The KU duo of Hegna/Walters also had an excellent opening tournament. They finished the preliminary rounds with a 6-2 record and were the sixth seed entering elimination rounds. In the preliminary rounds they notched wins over Cornell University, UNLV, the University of Wyoming and three different teams from Emory University. In the round of 32 they defeated George Mason University before losing a 2-1 split decision to the University of Kentucky in the round of 16.

A third KU pair, junior Chris Fry, of Overland Park, and freshman Nate Martin, Lansing, went 5-3 in the preliminary rounds and narrowly missed qualifying for the elimination rounds on tiebreakers. Two other KU teams, junior Lainey Schrag, Overland Park, with Gabriel Esquivel-Yglesias, Wichita, and sophomores Saif Bajwa, Overland Park, with Julia Henry ended with 4-4 records at the tournament.

Other KU teams opened the season in Kansas City at a tournament hosted at the University of Missouri Kansas City. The team of freshmen Ross Fitzpatrick, Leawood, and Jackson Ross, Overland Park, reached the elimination rounds with a 5-3 record, and the team of Gresyn Lane, Andover, and Charlie Weathersby, Gardner, reached the quarterfinals in the junior varsity division. Charlie was third-place individual speaker, and Gresyn was ninth.

“We are thrilled at the performance of our students to start the season,” said KU Coach Brett Bricker. “The success is the product of the hard work the squad has put into preparing for the season for the past three months. We have high hopes that this will be a memorable year for the University of Kansas debate team.” 

Assistant Coach Michael Eisenstadt added, “One squad, one chant — Rock Chalk KU Debate.”

The KU debate squad will travel to the University of Kentucky for tournaments next week. The team of Hegna/Walter will be competing at a round robin invitational prior to the main event, and the rest of the squad will be competing in Lexington from Sept. 29-Oct. 2.

Photo: From left, Will Katz, Topeka, and Quaram Robinson, of Round Rock, Texas.