Debate team wins season opener

Left to Right: Dr. Scott Varda (Head Coach), Andrew Barron (Sr.), Greg Zoda (Jr.), and Dr. Matt Gerber (Director) Photo courtesy of Matt Gerber

By Brooke Hill | Staff Writer

The Glenn R. Capp Debate Forum, which is the nationally-ranked debate team at Baylor, opened the season by winning first place at an invitation-only tournament that took place September 26 through Oct. 3. The team was ranked No. 22 in the nation for the 2016-2017 school year by the National Debate Tournament Committee.

The team of Pflugerville senior Andrew Barron and Nashua, NH junior Greg Zoda posted a 7-1 record, besting teams from Cornell, Rutgers, Arizona State, Gonzaga, UNLV, Binghamton, and West Georgia.

Zoda was also named the first place individual speaker, while Barron was ranked as the 4th speaker at the tournament. Baylor debaters Olathe, Kan. senior Alaina Walberg and Wichita, Kan. freshman Angelo Wong also posted a winning 5-3 record, and defeated UMKC (University of Missouri-Kansa City) in the elimination rounds before dropping a close debate to Rutgers in the Octofinals.

Dr. Matt Gerber, an associate professor in the department of communication, and director of debate was also the recipient of the 21st Annual Val Browning Director of the Year award.

“I think it’s a pretty good start to a very promising season,” Barron said. “I think it’s important to kind of start out strong and make sure that we keep the consistency going throughout the season.”

The tournament, hosted by Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, entailed eight preliminary rounds of debate, each lasting almost three hours. At the conclusion of those eight debates, the teams compete in elimination rounds until they lose, or win the tournament. Despite the grueling schedule and long-distance travel, the Bears were in fine form, having been researching and practicing since July. This season, the topic is national health care reform, and the intercollegiate debate community will debate this same topic until the national championships in March.

The Baylor debaters will compete at Emporia State this weekend and at Gonzaga University at the end of October before closing the first semester of debate at Wake Forest University in November.

“We were just plugging a few holes in our cases and doing a little extra research after the first tournament to get ready for this next one,” Gerber said. “It’s really just fine tuning our arguments and fixing anything that comes up and figuring out how we want to present it.”

Barron said he’s looking forward to getting to travel to some of the debate locations later this year.

“Our tournament at Gonzaga University is in Washington, so some of the best debaters from around the country are going there and it’ll be great to debate them,” Barron said.

The Glenn R. Capp Debate Forum is the oldest co-curricular, university-sponsored activity at Baylor, dating back to its inception in 1845. Baylor has won three national championships in debate (1975, 1987, and 1989), appeared in nine Final Fours, and has had many top speakers at the NDT (National Debate Tournament). The Capp Forum is housed in the department of Communication, where Dr. Gerber and head coach Dr. Scott Varda lead a team of 10 undergraduate debaters, assisted by several graduate coaches who volunteer their time and expertise to the program.

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