Back-to-back: Husker Debate takes second national title

· 3 min read

Back-to-back: Husker Debate takes second national title

Speech team places ninth; Wallenburg wins individual competition
Image of Nebraska Debate Team members holding trophies and awards earned at the national competition.

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln debate team has done it again.

Following up a 2022 national championship in Lincoln Douglas Debate, Husker debaters won a second title during the National Forensic Association’s National Tournament April 14-17 at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois.

Husker speech finished ninth at the American Forensic Association’s National Speech Tournament, which took place at Nebraska April 1-3.

The debate team is one of the deepest and youngest in the country. The team qualified 12 students for the national tournament, the most of any school. The team was led by senior Nicholas Wallenburg from Lenexa, Kansas, who went 11-0 on his way to winning the individual national championship. Overall, seven Huskers posted winning records and advanced to elimination rounds. Three other students advanced to the Sweet 16: sophomore Zachary Wallenburg, junior Juliana Quattrocchi of Lincoln and first-year student Zein Saleh of Lincoln. Three other Huskers advanced to elimination rounds: Omaima Lado of Omaha, Elena Belashchenko of Lincoln and Nevin Butler of Millard. This was the sixth-consecutive year Nebraska has finished in the top five in the nation in Lincoln Douglas Debate.

The Husker Debate Team celebrates their national championship.
The Husker Debate Team celebrates their national championship. Pictured is (front row, from left) Nicholas Wallenburg, Arnav Rishi, (second row) Juliana Quattrocchi, Zach Wallenburg, Amber Tanehill, Elena Belashchenko, (third row) Connor Whalen, Grant McKeever, Luke McDermott, Dante Dyches-Chandler, (back row) Zein Saleh, Omaima Lado, and Nevin Butler.

The success in debate comes on the heels of the speech team’s achievements earlier in April at the National Speech Tournament, hosted by Santa Ana College in Santa Ana, California. Twenty-one students qualified for the National Speech Tournament, where they competed against 57 universities and colleges across the country. The team finished ninth. Individual highlights included junior Janana Khattak of Lincoln, who placed third in communication analysis, and first-year student Sydney Kwasa of Omaha, who placed fourth in poetry interpretation. Senior Jake Garlock of Omaha was also selected to the National All-American Team. Only 12 students in the nation achieved All-American status this year. The team advanced 12 events to elimination rounds, a team record, and five events to the semifinal round.

“Winning is difficult; repeating as champions is even harder,” Aaron Duncan, director of speech and debate, said. “Back-to-back national champions is a rare feat and one that all of these students should treasure. This is a special group of students and coaches who worked incredibly hard to achieve this success.”

The debate team was led to success by Justin Kirk, director of debate, and Zachary Thornhill, graduate assistant coach.

“We are overwhelmed by the outcome of the tournament,” Kirk said. “These students put in the time and effort to become champions. I could not be prouder of them. I am especially happy for Nick Wallenburg. For the last four years, he put in countless hours of research and practice to become a champion.”

Speech and Debate team is part of the Department of Communication Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences.

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