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Wednesday, Sep 22, 2021

Debate team opens 2017 with greatest ever showing

The Mercer University Debate Team opened 2017 with more success after an impressive showing at a national competition in Utah. The team competed in the Utah Mile High Swing Tournament at the University of Utah, the largest debate tournament in the nation, during the first week of the new year.

The tournament consisted of two smaller, back-to-back parliamentary tournaments. The first tournament saw junior co-captains Jaz Buckley and Kyle Bligen collect spots in the octa-finals.

Out of 144 competitors and more than 30 schools, Buckley received nods as the 20th best debater while Bligen ended with a 14th place finish.

Mercer capitalized with even better performances in the second tournament. Duo Daniel Alvarez, a junior, and sophomore Keanu Lowo both advanced to the quarterfinals. After an intense debate, Lowo finished in third place, and Alvarez left the tournament in second.

Collectively, it is the best ever showing in the debate team’s history, according to a press release issued by the university.

Mercer University professor and debate coach, Vasile Stanescu, said that the victories are indicative of Mercer’s continued ability to compete on the national stage, academically.

Even more impressive, the tournament was Lowo and Alvarez’s first competition on the national stage together. Lowo said he was honored to receive third place amongst such strong debaters.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect from the national circuit, but I think I was well prepared by the team,” Lowo said. “I knew we had a strong case coming in, but certainly didn’t expect to break to quarterfinals against such stiff competition.”

Bligen said watching the duo argue their case was one of his favorite parts of the tournament.

“They put in hours of careful thought and communication training; this produced a case that remains one of the most creative and effective that I’ve ever seen,” Bligen said.

The debate team is capitalizing on already strong showings, after being the only institution to advance to the final rounds of the Georgia, British and International Parliamentary Debates at the University of North Georgia in September.

The team seems to be peaking at an appropriate time.

Individual partners have performed well in the past few tournaments, but Bligen said he feels that this is the year the team breaks out as a collective unit before state championships next month.

“This season is quickly proving to be one in which all team members are coming into their own and producing groundbreaking results,” Bligen said. “Our team is already nationally ranked, but I believe that as we continually improve, we can be the most successful team in the nation.”

Success will depend on solid team chemistry, which the group has been working to develop more of this season. They intentionally spent more time together outside of debate events to build team camaraderie.

The team is centered on success as a group, although individual awards are certainly warranted. Stanescu likes to see his team support each other.

"What I love most about this team is how much they support another,” Vanescu said. “I have never seen this level of team unity and friendship on any other debate team. It is--without question--part of why Mercer just keeps winning."

Evidence of the team building can be seen in the trust between partners. Lowo and Alvarez work tirelessly to develop a bond that produces results in tournaments. Lowo sets the argument up and delivers the final speech, but Alvarez handles rebuttals. Without one, you cannot have the other.

“Our partner dynamic is very unique,” Alvarez said. “Keanu tends to be more cool-headed in his approach to arguments while I tend to be more aggressive . . . We help offset each other’s weaknesses very well.”

The tournament acted as a strong learning experience for the debate team and will be used to strengthen arguments for their next set of debates at the Georgia Parliamentary Debate Association State Championship at Valdosta State University next month.

Afterwards, they will be traveling to Kansas City, Missouri and Denver to compete for a national championship.

In the meantime, Mercer will host the Georgia Independent School Association State Debate Championship on Jan. 21. The debate team will mentor the incoming high school debaters and help facilitate the tournament.


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