Kansas University will be sending three teams to compete in the National Debate Tournament for the first time in 17 years.
Only six teams across the nation may qualify a third team for the tournament — and KU has now done so twice in the 64-year history of the prestigious national tournament, which KU won last year.
“It requires you to have at least six really talented debaters and the resources to be able to travel all around the country,” said Scott Harris, KU debate coach.
The national championship tournament is scheduled for March 19-23 at the University of California-Berkeley.
Mathew Petersen, Wichita senior, and Mark Wilkins, Topeka sophomore, received an at-large bid as KU’s third team last week.
Two other KU teams — Chris Stone, Derby senior, and Patrick Kennedy, Leawood junior, along with Dylan Quigley, Wichita senior, and Sean Kennedy, Leawood junior — had already qualified earlier through an at-large process that identified the top 16 teams in the country.
The debaters described the national tournament as a gathering of the top 78 teams in the country. There are no easy rounds.
“You get no sleep,” Quigley said. “And you consume a lot of caffeinated drinks.”
The debaters will be joined at the tournament by more than 20 other supporters from KU who will help in researching and scouting other teams.
Stone called the tournament the “end-all, be-all” of debate tournaments, where there’s no chance of getting a round off.
“Everyone’s on the top of their game,” Wilkins said. “So you can’t take anyone for granted.”
Harris, whose top team of Nate Johnson and Brett Bricker won the tournament last year, said that one of KU Debate’s goals this year was to qualify three teams for the tournament.
As two of the KU teams are ranked among the top 16 teams in the country, Harris said he hopes to return to at least the “sweet 16” of the elimination rounds this year, and see how things go from there.
“Anything can happen,” he said.