Tuesday, April 17, 2012

UWG debate team wraps up successful season

University of West Georgia debaters had a strong 2011-2012 season, concluded by attending two national championship tournaments held the last two weekends of March. The teams of Osayame Gaius, a sophomore from North Miami Beach by way of Nigeria, and Vanova Robles, a sophomore from Ft. Lauderdale High by way of Venezuela, and Damiyr Davis and Miguel Feliciano, both first-year students from the Beacon School in New York City, capped a successful season with tremendous performances at nationals.

The first was the Cross Examination Debate Association Nationals held at the University of Oklahoma March 23-26. More than 150 teams from across the nation competed. The team of Gaius-Robles compiled a 7-1 record in the preliminary rounds, good for the seventh overall seed. The team of Davis-Feliciano was also 7-1 in preliminaries, achieving the fifth overall seed. Due to their high seeds, each team advanced without having to debate in the round of 64. And both teams won unanimous 3-0 decisions in the round of 32. In the Sweet Sixteen, the team of Gaius-Robles was upset by a team from the University of North Texas, while the frosh team of Davis-Feliciano won a Sweet Sixteen matchup with Harvard before falling to the fourth overall seed from the University of Kansas in the Elite Eight.

Based on their showing at CEDA Nationals and their success over the course of the year, these two teams helped UWG achieve recognition in the year-long CEDA points race. Based on the overall season, UWG was recognized as the top school in the Southeast Region, finishing ahead of Emory University and Wake Forest University.

After a 13-hour drive back from Norman, Okla., the teams had only two days to catch up with their classwork and get ready for the National Debate Tournament, hosted by Emory and held at the Marriott in Duluth, Ga., March 29-April 2. The top 78 teams in the country qualified to compete, and UWG had two of those teams. Each preliminary round at the NDT has a 3-judge panel. So in addition to having a chance to win eight prelim debates, a team has a chance to collect as many as 24 ballots.

The Gaius-Robles team compiled a record of 4-4, with 14 ballots. This means that while their win-loss record was .500, they actually had more judges vote for them than against them (14-10 in overall prelim ballots). Unfortunately, 5 prelim wins are required to advance to the elimination rounds, thus their season came to a premature end. But their achievements over the course of the entire year have set them up to be a top 20 team entering next season.

Meanwhile, the Davis-Feliciano team achieved a 5-3 record in prelims, winning 17 of 24 ballots. This earned them the 14th overall seed and a matchup with the top team from Dartmouth College in the round of 32. UWG defeated Dartmouth on a 4-1 decision, advancing them to the Sweet 16. Although they lost to eventual champion Georgetown on a 3-2 decision, their results received plenty of accolades and attention.

They became the first all-frosh team to advance to the octafinals of the NDT since 1993; and combined with their appearance in the Elite Eight at CEDA Nationals, the Davis-Feliciano team is poised to start the 2012-13 season among the top teams in the country.

During their two week run, the two UWG teams defeated teams from such schools as Boston College, Cal State-Fullerton, Cornell, Harvard, University of Minnesota, University of Southern Cal, UT-Austin and Wichita State. And best of all, all four debaters are maintaining honors-level GPAs (above a 3.2) while perpetuating UWG's status as one of the top programs in the country.

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