Debate team makes history for second time in a week

April 2, 2013

There’s no debate — the Emporia State debate team of Ryan Wash and Elijah Smith is the best in the country as the college season winds down. Wash and Smith, competing as Emporia SW, won the National Debate Tournament in the wee hours of this morning, defeating a team from Northwestern University. The win comes just a week after Emporia SW captured the Cross Examination Debate Association national tournament.

Both wins are making history in the collegiate debate world.

Emporia State is the first program to have a team capture both titles in the same season, according to Allan Louden, professor and chair of the communications department at Wake Forest University. Louden is a former trustee of the NDT and retired debate coach at Wake Forest, where Sam Maurer, head of Emporia State Debate, earned his master’s degree, and LaToya Williams-Green, Wash’s debate partner last year, is working on her master’s degree.

“CEDA crowns the popular national champion,” Louden explained, noting that the CEDA tournament is open to all teams that choose to compete. “At NDT, teams have to qualify.”

The NDT has been crowning winners for nearly 70 years. Its website lists the top four places each year going back to 1947. CEDA’s website goes back to 1986.

In Louden’s memory, only one other team has come close to the dual titles.

“University of California, Berkeley came within one round of doing it,” he recalled. That was in 2005.

Smith of Newark, N.J., and Wash of Kansas City, Mo., also are the first black duo to take the NDT title, Louden said. They also set history with the CEDA win. In the CEDA championship debate, Smith and Wash competed against Damiyr Davis and Miguel Feliciano of the University of West Georgia. All four competitors came through the Urban Debate League system, which was created to bring debate to inner-city public schools.

The final round at NDT, which took more than two hours, can be viewed on YouTube: http://www.justin.tv/gtdebatestream/c/2102713.

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