Hannah Poturalski

Miami University’s debate team has another victory under its belt, with wins in two divisions this past weekend at the fifth tournament of the semester.

The seven active members of the debate team traveled to John Carroll University in Cleveland Dec. 5 to 7, according to coach Marcy Halpin, who is in her first year with the team.

Halpin said teams won in the open division-which has the most seasoned debaters and is the highest level of the competition-and the junior division, in which debaters have under two years of experience.

Senior Michael Jensen and junior Drew Wallenstein, who won overall as a team, have both been active in the debate team since they were first-year students and have been a two-man team since last year.

“In debate, there is an intense, competitive requirement to push yourself in research and critical thinking,” Wallenstein said. “When you come up with an original argument you really feel like you accomplished something.”

Jensen agreed.

“Debate is fun and challenging, it’s meant to be engaging and difficult,” Jensen said.

An average tournament houses approximately 30 teams in six preliminary rounds and elimination rounds, which are pared down to ten teams, Jensen said.

Wallenstein said during the fall semester he and Jensen have advanced to elimination rounds in all five tournaments.

Sophomores Ashley Devenport and Kirsten Rody won overall for the junior division, Halpin said.

On top of the teams scoring successful wins during the week weekend, five students received individual speaker awards, Halpin said. Wallenstein received the second place award, Jensen received a seventh place award and first-year Matt Molinaro received a fifth place speaker award in the open division.

For the women, Devenport received a first place speaker award in the junior division and Rody received a ninth place award.

“Each year a policy debate topic is voted on and chosen as the topic for the entire year,” Halpin said.

This year’s topic was government reducing agricultural subsidies, one of Jensen’s favorites.

“There are so many specifics within the broader topic, such as crops, international trade, food prices, local farmers and implications from reduced subsidies,” Halpin said.

Other topics discussed in the past have been Supreme Court cases and strategic engagement with the Middle East, Jensen said.

“All the topics are very current with what is going on in the world,” Halpin said.

Debate isn’t all intense, high-pressure situations though. According to Wallenstein, the team always has fun.

“We have fun while being competitive with others,” Wallenstein said. “You make really good friends with these people whether you win or lose because you see these people virtually every other weekend for days at a time.”

The team gets together after tournaments and assesses where the gaps exist in their arguments and strategizes new arguments, Halpin said.

The debate team will be hosting its next tournament at Miami from Jan. 9 to Jan. 11. Teams will be coming from Wayne State, Kent State, Capital, John Carroll, Indiana, Kentucky and Pittsburgh universities, Jensen said.

“We’re getting everything ready for that and teams have begun registering for it online,” Wallenstein said.

The team has had to deal with being in debt this semester and is working toward adding more money to their budget.

“We are having fundraisers and bake sales, it’s up to us to survive and sustain the team,” Halpin said. “We are allocated a budget each year and anything else we have to add.”

Despite any hardships, the team’s attitude is very optimistic.

“College demands a lot out of debate but it’s a great feeling of accomplishment,” Wallenstein said.

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