Debate team is runner-up in national championship

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas debate team of Sion Bell, a freshman from Laurel, Maryland, and Quaram Robinson, a sophomore from Round Rock, Texas, finished second at the 70th National Debate Tournament in Binghamton, New York.  KU lost in the Championship Debate to Harvard University. 

The final round took place at the same time as the Men’s NCAA Basketball championship game. They are the 15th KU team to advance to the Final Four of the NDT and the sixth KU team to reach the championship debate.

The final round was the culmination of four days of competition in which the field of 78 teams was narrowed to Kansas and Harvard.  Each team in the tournament debated in eight preliminary debates, and the top 31 teams qualified for single elimination debates. Bell and Robinson began the tournament with five consecutive wins over the University of Southern California, George Mason University, the University of California-Berkeley, Wake Forest University and Trinity University. They then lost back-to-back debates to a second team from the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Kentucky before bouncing back with a win over Northwestern University in the final preliminary debate. They advanced to the elimination rounds with a 6-2 record as the 13th seed. In the first elimination round they defeated a team from Emory University to advance to the Sweet 16 and the final day of competition. 
In the Sweet 16 they met the fourth-seeded team from the University of California-Berkeley in a rematch and defeated them for the second time in the tournament.  In the Elite Eight they had a rematch with the fift-seeded team from Berkeley that had defeated them in the preliminary rounds, and this time KU emerged victorious to advance to the Final Four. In the semifinals they defeated the University of Michigan, the top seed at the tournament and the team that had entered the tournament as the second-ranked team in the country.  In the championship debate KU lost to the Harvard team that was the top-ranked team in the country. Bell and Robinson had entered the NDT as the 17th-ranked team in the country.

A second KU team composed of Chris Carey, a senior from Westwood Hills, and Amit Bhatla, a junior from Lenexa, went 5-3 in the preliminary rounds and qualified for the single-elimination debates. In the preliminary rounds they defeated the University of Texas, Indiana University, the University of Wyoming, Central Oklahoma University and the University of West Georgia. They lost in the first elimination round to the Berkeley team that Bell-Robinson would later defeat in the Elite Eight.

Robinson was recognized as the sixth-best individual speaker at the tournament.
“We are incredibly proud of the performance of the debaters at the NDT,” said Scott Harris, the David B. Pittaway Director of Debate. “Quaram and Sion had an amazing tournament with six wins over teams ranked in the top 10. Making it to the final round was a testament to their talent and hard work. I am very grateful to the hard work of all the assistant coaches who helped them on this remarkable run.”
According to Assistant Coach Sean Kennedy their performance included some historic achievements.

“They are the first team not ranked in the top 16 going into the tournament to make it to the final round since rankings began in 1973; they are only the second team of two non-males to debate in the final round, and Quaram is the first black woman to ever compete in the final round,” he said.

It was announced during the tournament that KU will be the host for next year’s National Debate Tournament, to be held March 23-27, 2017.

“We are very excited at the prospect of bringing the NDT to the University of Kansas for the first time,” said Coach Brett Bricker.

KU teams also performed well at other national tournaments.  The team of Jacob Hegna, a freshman from Austin, Minnesota, and Henry Walter, a freshman from Overland Park, won the National Junior Division Debate Tournament, a national championship for debaters in their first two years of college competition. It is the third consecutive year that KU has won the NJDDT Championship. The team of Chris Fry, a freshman from Overland Park, and Will Katz, a sophomore from Topeka, took third place at the tournament.  The team of Lainey Schrag, a freshman from Overland Park, and Tyler Woodcock, a freshman from Leavenworth, finished in fifth place. At the Cross Examination Debate Association national tournament the team of Hegna-Walter finished in ninth place.

Photos: The debate team of Sion Bell and Quaram Robinson.

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