Debate duo from Emporia State nabs national tournament title

March 28, 2013

Two senior debaters for Emporia State University took first place Tuesday in the Cross Examination Debate Association national tournament. Ryan Wash of Kansas City, Mo.; and Elijah Smith of Newark, N.J., bested a team from the University of West Georgia in what is being called an historic championship.

“The final round participants were Damiyr Davis and Miguel Feliciano from the University of West Georgia who were participants of the New York Urban Debate League,” explained Sam Maurer, Emporia State debate coach. “Ryan was a member of the Debate-Kansas City, the Kansas City Urban Debate League, and Elijah was a member of the Jersey Urban Debate League. So all participants in the final round were students of color and graduates of the Urban Debate Leagues all over the country.

“The debate also centrally focused on issues of environmental justice and how judges evaluate stories of loss. It was historic because of who was in the debate and what they had to say,” Maurer said, adding that the round was “generally just a high-quality debate.”

Wash also was named top speaker at CEDA; Smith was named No. 11 speaker.

“I am overwhelmingly proud of these debaters, this team, our coaches, our alums, and Emporia State University,” said Maurer. “Words cannot express how excited I am right now. In fact, I'm not even sure my head is completely around it yet. We spent spring break in King Hall, and after about 45 hours of competition in four days, everything is a blur anyway so the trophy sitting next to me still doesn't seem real.

There has been little rest for the coach and Wash, a senior communications major, and Smith, a sophomore social science major. The team left the CEDA tournament at Idaho State University in Pocatello, after Tuesday’s win and headed to Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, for the National Debate Tournament, which began today and continues through Monday, April 1.

Previously, Emporia State’s best showing at CEDA came in 1993 when the school was named sweepstakes champion. The team that year included Maurer.

Last year, Wash debated with LaToya Williams-Green at both CEDA and NDT. Their team placed third at CEDA and ninth at NDT in 2012.

Unlike other college competitions, debate does not distinguish schools by size or other qualifying factors. Emporia State debaters square off against teams from schools across the country like Harvard, University of Southern California, University of Kansas, Emory University, University of Michigan.

“We are incredibly proud to be able to win this honor for Emporia State University,” Maurer said. “The debate team is continually inspired by the teachers they work with, the other students they meet, and the leadership of this university. ESU deserves this championship.

“And while many of the folks who work for the university were not with us in Idaho for this special moment, they all played a part in our victory. Whether it be a teacher who inspired a new argument during class, Cheryl Wooderson for cutting our travel checks, President Shonrock for inspiring the whole campus with his passion for the growth of this university or Dr. Steve Catt for creating and maintaining a warm home for debate in the Communication and Theatre Arts Department, this is truly a victory we share with the whole ESU family.”

The team will be posting updates from the NDT on its Facebook page (http://on.fb.me/WZxeiv) and its Twitter account (@DebateEmporia).

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