NU debate team takes second at National Debate Tournament

Cathaleen Qiao Chen

The Northwestern Debate Society wrapped up its competitive year last week as the winner of the Rex Copeland Memorial Award and the second-place team in the National Debate Tournament, the final event in the college debate season.

Three teams represented NU at the tournament. Five out of the six speakers placed in the top 20 debaters, and two teams qualified as semi-finalists, one of which debated against Georgetown University in the final round. The NU finalists, Weinberg senior Ryan Beiermeister and sophomore Layne Kirshon, ended up as the runners-up to Georgetown, which won with a 3-2 ballot.

Beiermeister and Kirshon entered the final tournament as the winners of the Copeland Award, an annual title granted to the team with the strongest overall season.

“It’s been a good season, but in all honesty, it’s sad because we were one ballot away from a perfect season,” Beiermeister said. “But I’m so proud of Northwestern Debate and my teammates, and I feel like we really did it right.”

Beiermeister, who competed in her last season this year, ended her debate career as the winner of the Top Speaker Award. She is one of four women to ever receive the award, including NU alumna Stephanie Spies (WCAS ’11), who took home the Top Speaker trophy last year.

“Ryan was a valuable speaker to the team, and next year, we’re going to have big shoes to fill,” Kirshon said.

Luke Hill, the program coordinator of the NU Debate Society, said this year was a memorable season.

“This year had a really unique turnout, and we’ve had one of our deepest tournaments,” Hill said. “The entire squad won eight tournaments overall in the season, and with Ryan as the Top Speaker and the Copeland Award, I don’t think it’ll be repeated.”

NU Debate Society has a history of consistent victories as one of the top collegiate teams in the nation. According to Hill, NU has won the highest number of National Debate Tournament championships with 14 titles, topping both Harvard and Georgetown.

University Spokesman Al Cubbage said the debate team has always been a selling point for NU.

“It’s one of our most stellar activities on campus, and it’s great that they’ve done as well as they did this year,” Cubbage said.

Hill said the team’s success can be attributed to NU’s four pillars of debate: teamwork, hard work, character and commitment.

“We hold ourselves to a set of high standards that have been passed down for the past 20 years, at least,” Hill said. “And of course, (head coach) Dr. Fitzmier has a vision for the team and has created an environment where everyone on the team can maximize their chances of winning.”

Beiermeister said the team and Kirshon have enough potential to have a winning debate season next year as well. Kirshon himself has lost only two matches in his two-year college debate career.

“We have a very strong team returning, and I have no doubt that Layne will accomplish what he’s supposed to accomplish,” Beiermeister said. “He’s one of the best debaters of all time in my book, and I would bet money that he will win (Top Speaker).”

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