In a record-breaking year for Texas Tech, the Parliamentary Debate Team added to the university’s success by making history competing at and taking home titles in three national championship tournaments.
“It was one of the best championship runs we’ve ever had,” Maria DeMarco, a member of the debate team and senior communications studies major from Salt Lake City, Utah, said.
The team competed in the National Round Robin hosted at the University of California, Berkley, the National Parliamentary Debate Association National Championship (NPDA) hosted at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City and the National Parliamentary of Excellence (NPTE) hosted at the University of Nevada, Reno.
At the National Round Robin hosted in February, of the two teams Tech sent to compete, Fiker Tesfaye and Max Groznik, placed first at the championship and Mario DeMarco and Cody Gustafon placed fourth. Additionally, Tesafye won top speaker.
The National Round Robin can be considered the most prestigious national tournament out of all three because it is by invitation only and each school can only send their top two teams, DeMarco said. For Tech to win at this level was amazing.
“We had won or closed out five of the seven tournaments that we had went to, but to have it happen on a national scale at that level is something you can’t really be prepared for. It was really amazing,” she said.
These incredible results speak to success of the debate program, Adam Testerman, director of forensics for the debate team, said.
“Even clearing at a tournament that is this competitive and this difficult is an incredible achievement,” he said. “We cleared two of our teams to the outround and we faced off against incredible debaters from Cal Berkley, Rice University, etc.”
The team went on to compete at the NPDA with four teams, with DeMarco and Gustafon’s team ranking in the top eight and Tesfaye and Groznik’s team ranking in the top four. At the NPTE, Tesfaye and Gronizk’s team finished in sixth and DeMarco and Gustafon’s team finished in 13th, according to the debate team’s Facebook page.
Tesafaye, a senior sociology major from Denton, said she also received top speaker at both the NPDA and NPTE, in addition to her previous National Round Robin award, making history.
“Winning those top three national speakers awards was really amazing for personally because that’s something that nobody has ever done,” she said. “Nobody has ever won two of them in the same year, so to win all three was so mind-blowing.”
The team’s success can be attributed to the work put in by members of the debate team as well as the coaching staff, DeMarco said.
“Other institutions do have a lot of great resources,” she said. “But I would say that Tech has the best coaching staff and also has a great focus on utilizing the kinds of things that we learn in our courses and our classes and applying that to the way that we debate.”
Topics at the debates include social issues, political issues, and cultural issues. Members of the team must be familiar with the material, as in some of the tournaments, they are only given the 15 minutes on the topics before the actual debate.
“The weeks leading ups to the tournaments, the month before is definitely the most intensive,” she said. “I would say I was putting in around 15 hours each week of research and in addition to that we had many practice rounds.”
The bond the team has also played into its success this year, she said. From the coaching staff to the students, everybody is hardworking and want to get better and win. There is a healthy drive along with close friendships.
“They foster not only a really competitive team but also a really close and tight knit family almost, and I think that’s something Texas Tech does extremely well as a university,” she said. “It makes you feel sort of at home and with you friends and family.”
This season was the culmination of years of work of the seniors on the team, Testerman said. On the top three teams this year, five of them were seniors. From the many semesters practicing and going to different debate tournaments, the team was in place this season to win the championship.
“When you start the year saying our goal is nothing less than to win every single tournament that we attend and set our eyes on the highest prize we possibly can, I think that has the effect of causing everyone to raise their game, and so I don’t know, the debaters just pushed themselves,” he said.