Campus Life

No Debate About It: Mason Team Stands in First Place

By Francis Womble

One of George Mason University’s teams beat all of its competitors across the nation to claim a number one ranking in the first semester of the academic year. But this team has nothing to do with athletics. It’ the George Mason debate team, which is currently ranked first in both the Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) national point standings and the National Debate Tournament (NDT) standings.

The George Mason University Debate Team.  Courtesy of the Debate Team.

The George Mason University Debate Team. Courtesy of the Debate Team.

The team, directed by Mason communication professor Warren Decker, earned 148 total CEDA points—six points ahead of second-place Northwestern University—and 430 total NDT points, 28 points ahead of Liberty University, which placed second.

“Our number one ranking demonstrates George Mason University debate’s excellent performance in elimination rounds in the varsity, junior varsity, and novice divisions of debate tournaments held the first semester,” says Alex McVey, assistant director of debate.

The team’s effort and dedication began last summer when the team began researching, writing briefs, giving practice speeches, and working with coaches around the topic of federal funding for alternative energy.

The Debate Team's varsity squad. Photo courtesy of the Debate Team.

The Debate Team’s varsity squad. Photo courtesy of the Debate Team.

The practice paid off, as the team secured first-place victories in the varsity and novice divisions, with appearances across all divisions in multiple finals and semifinals in nine tournaments.

“Getting to the number one spot demonstrates a tremendous team effort,” says McVey. “Our incredible coaching staff and excellent group of debaters put in an extraordinary amount of time and energy.”

The team’s success is not unique to this year. Burton Gray, BA economics and English ’95, was a member of the debate team in 1994 when it was also ranked number one nationally.

“It required a tremendous amount of work from everyone on the team, but it was well worth the effort,” says Gray. “The skill sets developed during debate, primarily research, public speaking, logic argumentation, and refutation, have given me confidence and an edge in life and business ever since.”

To show his gratitude to the team and help it reach further success, Gray and his wife, Yardly, donated a gift of $250,000 to the debate team, which will be applied to scholarship support, travel expenses, and funding for coaches.

“It is great to hear that GMU’s debate is ranked number one again,” says Gray. “I hope that my gift to the program helps the team continue to compete at this highest level and creates opportunities like I had for many students in the years to come.”

“Burton and Yardly’s contribution will have a huge impact on our team’s potential for success,” says Decker. “This will help us in our recruitment efforts and enable us to compete on a higher level.”

The team comprises 19 students, with six coaches in addition to Decker and McVey.

“The team is highly inclusive and reflects the amazing diversity of the Mason student body as a whole,” McVey says. “Our great successes in the novice and JV divisions this year represent a tremendous source of potential, and the success of those squads is a testament to our desire to expand participation in intercollegiate debate to new and experienced debaters.”

Colin Daily, a freshman philosophy major on the team, expects to see continued success for debate.

“The team’s ranking is really attributed to the hard work from everyone on the team and the tireless and impassioned efforts of the coaches. The team as a whole can only become stronger, and unless we have a drastic change next year, we should hold the same position in rankings,” he says.

Other team members are Jazmyne Arnett, Joe Bradley, Isaac Brown, Kearstine Griffin, Sean Hoey, Erica Jalbuena, Young Kwon, Kyle Lastovica, Andre Massa, Luke Melton, Lizbett Mendozza, Nick Merican, Tod Mohney, Manraaj Nijjar, Dan Stone, Michelle Thomas, Lincoln Upton, and David Michael Woodward. Coaches are Jomel Angat, Kristie Cramer, Allison Harper, Jackie Poapst, Peter Susko, and Jake Weiner.

More information about the debate team can be found on their PBWorks space.

This article originally appeared on the university’s News site.

To read more stories about Mason, check out the university’s News site.

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