The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Speech and Debate Team wrapped up its first month of the 2020-2021 season with an exceptional start.
After attending five virtual competitions in four weeks, the debate team captured three tournament titles, two top speaker awards and six bids to the national tournament in April.
Nebraska won first place at the season-opening Alexis Elliott Memorial Round Robin hosted by Western Kentucky University on Sept. 25. The tournament featured 14 of the top returning debaters from the previous season. Senior Addisson Stugart of Omaha and sophomore Nicholas Wallenburg of Kansas City received invitations to the competition and competed in debates online against students from Western Kentucky University, Penn State, Illinois State and several other squads. Wallenburg went undefeated over seven rounds and won the final debate on a 4-1 decision. This is the first time the team has taken home the title at the season-opening round robin.
The squad then competed at the Southwest Baptist University Derryberry Tournament on Oct. 2 and dominated the field. Junior Gregory Quick finished preliminary debates undefeated with a 4-0 record and received the top speaker award at the tournament. Quick, as well as junior Salman Djingueinabaye, senior Addisson Stugart and sophomore Nicholas Wallenburg all advanced to the semifinals round to close out the tournament and bring home the top four places in varsity debate. In the Novice division, first-year debater and junior Uwase Andromede received top novice speaker honors, and finished as the runner-up in the novice division.
“I was hesitant at first before joining the debate team because I am not an English native speaker and don’t have high school debating experience, but soon found out that everyone on the team was supportive, welcoming and helpful,” Andromede said.
The squad competed at the most competitive fall semester tournament, the Missouri Mule, on Oct. 16. Hosted by the University of Central Missouri, the Mule featured 50 debaters from the top Lincoln-Douglas debate programs in the United States. In a follow-up performance to his season opener, Wallenburg won the tournament championship after eight online debates spanning 13 hours. Wallenburg defeated top debaters from Western Kentucky University and Washburn University on his way to the championship.
“It has been an exciting couple of weekends,” Wallenburg said. “The entire team put a lot of research and work in over the summer and the first few weeks of school, and it was really nice to see that work coming to fruition. It was exciting and humbling to win two different tournaments against so many excellent debaters. We have had a great start, but it’s not over yet.”
After winning three of the first five competitions of the season, Nebraska’s debate team has emerged as a clear contender for the national title.
“In the 150-year history of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Speech and Debate program, there has never been a debate season held entirely online, and we could not be happier with the way our squad has risen to the occasion,” Justin Kirk, head coach of debate, said. “The students’ resilience, dedication and work ethic transformed an unknown landscape of virtual debating into an opportunity to show the excellence of our students and the strength of our team.”
Despite the trepidation surrounding a virtual debate season following last years’ national tournament cancellation, Stugart still sees potential for a successful season.
“I’m still not sure how I feel about debating online,” Stugart, a senior from Omaha, said. “But even in that uncertainty, I’m so excited to compete and win this year with my team.”
The students on the debate team will continue their competition Nov. 14-15 at a virtual tournament hosted by Illinois State University and close their semester Dec. 5-6 with a competition co-hosted by the Nebraska debate team and Lafayette College of Massachusetts. They will compete at the National Forensic Association national championship in April, scheduled to be hosted by the University of Illinois–Chicago.