ESU Debate ends epic season with flurry of prestigious awards

April 25, 2012

Emporia State University Debate ended what could arguably be the best season in its near 100-year history.

“I could not be happier with how our season went,” said Sam Maurer, Director of Debate at ESU. “To have debated at this program and been a part of its storied history for so long, to watch it blossom the way it did this season is just very special to me.”

Here is a list of awards the ESU Debate Program was honored with at the Cross-Examination Debate Association National Championship at Oklahoma University and the National Debate Tournament hosted by Emory University:

  • 9th First-Round At-Large Bid to the National Debate Tournament — Every year, the top 16, 2-person teams from every university in the country are awarded a “bye” through the district qualification process. LaToya Williams-Green and Ryan Wash earned the honor this season for the second time in ESU’s history, the first being in 1976 (when ESU was ranked the 16th bid). ESU knew that they had earned the bid since February but learned at the National Debate Tournament that among the top 16, they were ranked 9th by the rankings committee. This ranking placed them ahead of every team from Harvard, Wake Forest, Emory, Dartmouth, and Michigan State — all historically successful NDT teams.
  • 3rd at CEDA National Championship — Emporia WW won 7 of 8 preliminary debates to win the 2nd seed in elimination rounds. After 3 consecutive wins in single-elimination debates to make it to the semi-finals, they lost on a 2-1 decision (1 judge voting for ESU, 2 against). The 3rd-place finish is the best of any team from ESU since the early 1990’s when then director Glen “Coach” Strickland took the team to new heights and won the CEDA Sweepstakes Championship in 1993.
  • Brian Johnston Debater of the Year Award — The college debate equivalent of the Heisman, the “Baby Jo” award was earned by ESU’s LaToya Williams-Green for the 2012 season. The award is given to honor a debater with elite levels of competitive success who also is a terrific citizen of the community. LaToya Williams-Green becomes the first ever ESU Debater to win the award. She also is the first African-American female to ever win the honor. LaToya will attend graduate school next year at Wake Forest University in Communication Studies.
  • CEDA Founder’s Award — For the first time ever, ESU was awarded the CEDA Founder’s Award, the annual award given to the program with the most points in the organization’s history. A point-scale exists to measure overall competitive success of a program. Among all universities, ESU had the most points at the end of this season with nearly 2,000. “What makes this award so special to me,” said Maurer “is that we literally share it with the great ESU debaters and coaches from every generation. Debaters from the 60’s earned points that won us this award. My first coach, Glen Strickland, help earned hundreds of those points. It is the sort of thing that makes your feel like a very small but proud part of a larger tradition.”
  • All-American Debater — Junior Ryan Wash was honored as a member of the CEDA All-American Debate Team. The team, comprised of a small handful of the hundreds of debaters from all over the country, is a tremendous honor for Wash. “Ryan is a spectacular competitor,” said Maurer. “Without him, we really would not be where we are today.” Wash has been honored with top-10 speaker awards consistently throughout the year while competing against only the toughest competition in the country.
  • Speaker Awards — At each of the two national championship tournaments, both Williams-Green and Wash were honored with high speaker awards. At the CEDA National Championship, LaToya Williams-Green was rated the 6th overall speaker, out of 320 debaters, and Ryan Wash was rated the 4th overall speaker. At the invitation-only NDT, LaToya Williams-Green was rated the 13th speaker and Ryan Wash the 12th. Both speaker awards at the NDT are new records for the history of ESU Debate, both breaking the previous record holder — LaToya Williams-Green who was 17th speaker at last year’s NDT.
  • 9th-place Finish at National Debate Tournament — Another historical school-best, Emporia WW lost in the sweet-sixteen to the 9th seed Northwestern LV on a 4-3 decision (4 judges voting for Northwestern, 3 for ESU). After a rough 2-2 start to the tournament, Emporia WW snapped-back with 5 consecutive wins against Michigan, North Texas, Trinity, and Emory (twice in a row). The performance ended a season where Emporia WW was indisputably one of the top-10 teams in the country. In terms of National Debate Tournament success, this was by far the best year in the history of ESU.

“After a season like this, there is a temptation to put one’s feet up and admire one’s work,” said Maurer. “But I speak for myself and the entire ESU Debate family in saying that we instead plan to try to capitalize this success into future growth of the program. We have a seat at the table of the nationally elite programs now and we won’t be standing-up any time soon.”

Next season’s work has already begun as ESU debaters and coach begin research on possible topics for the 2012-2013 season.

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