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KU debaters exit national tournament with 4-4 record; Emporia State wins championship

If you read this past weekend about the KU debate program's top duo this year, Melanie Campbell and Amanda Gress, you might be curious how things went for them at the National Debate Tournament in Ogden, Utah.

Campbell, a senior, told me her goal for her third NDT this year would be to make it to the elimination rounds for the first time. (Every team competes in eight preliminary debates over the span of three days, and then the teams with the best records move on to a five-round, single-elimination tournament.) Gress, a sophomore, wouldn't tell me what her goal was, because she didn't want to "jinx it."

According to a dispatch from head debate coach Scott Harris, the duo fell just short of Campbell's goal. And it sounds like they had some tough breaks.

Gress and Campbell wound up with a 4-4 record in their preliminary debates — the same record they had in last year's tournament — and they'd have moved on to the elimination rounds with one more victory. After five debates, they were sitting at 4-1, but then they lost three straight matches on split decisions by the three-judge panels. They had a tough draw, too: Seven of their eight opponents were teams that made it to the elimination rounds.

Their exit ended a streak of 10 straight years that at least one KU duo has reached the tournament's Sweet 16.

But the good news for them is that Campbell is staying for a fifth year, so they'll get another shot at it next year.

Here's a shot of Gress (from left), Campbell and Harris in action at the NDT, courtesy of the @KansasDebate Twitter account.

Here's a shot of Gress (from left), Campbell and Harris in action at the NDT, courtesy of the @KansasDebate Twitter account. by Matt Erickson

One other area note of interest: A team from Emporia State University is one of the best in the country this year. Emporia State made the NDT's Final Four, along with teams from Northwestern, Georgetown and Oklahoma. (The tournament should be over as of last night, but I've not yet found any final results. I'll update if/when I do.) Emporia State won another national tournament, sponsored by the Cross Examination Debate Association, last week in Idaho. KU's Campbell and Gress made it to the round of eight in that one.

Campbell, Gress and the rest of KU's debaters will now get a month or two off from living and breathing debate before the CEDA settles on next year's topic, which every collegiate debate tourney uses. Then the cycle begins again.

There's no DEBATING it: These students work hard. (I am obligated by Journalist Law to make a pun on the word "debate" or "argument" when writing about debate competitions.) Stop me from thinking about more puns by sending your KU news tips to merickson@ljworld.com.

UPDATE:

And we have a winner: Emporia State's duo won the NDT title match late Monday night (technically early Tuesday morning, it sounds like), defeating the team from Northwestern. Per an ESU release, the team is the first ever to win both the NDT and the CEDA national tournament in the same year. The CEDA tourney is different in that it's open to all teams and doesn't require them to qualify.

Not only that, but ESU's duo is also the first team of two black students ever to win the NDT. KU coach Scott Harris noted when I talked to him last week that college debate leaders would also like to recruit more minority students to participate, along with more women. So that's a notable development.

ESU's victory over Northwestern was by a 3-2 vote. One of the judges was Harris, and he says he voted for Emporia.

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