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
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.