The University of Mary Washington Debate Team has wrapped up its competitive season with a phenomenal 3rd place finish at the American Debate Association’s National Championship. Senior John Huebler, junior Jo Misker, and first-year students Andrew Hudgins and Ainsley Rucker remained on campus for most of spring break in order to prepare to compete at the National Championship held at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, March 6-8. The tournament fielded competitors from across the nation, including Harvard, University of California-Berkeley, and Dartmouth, as well as UMW’s frequent competitors from the region, including George Mason, Liberty and the US Naval Academy.
Rucker and Huebler competed in varsity, with wins against an opponent from Indiana University and an opponent from the University of Michigan that reached the Sweet Sixteen. This was Huebler’s final competition as a member of UMW Debate, as all remaining competitions for the semester have been cancelled due to COVID-19.
Hudgins and Misker competed in the novice division and reached the Final Four at the championship, debating teams from Liberty, Monmouth, Emory, George Mason, Boston College, and Minnesota in the preliminary rounds. They finished the preliminary rounds as the 8th seed, with 4 wins and 2 losses. In the octafinals, they faced California State University-Long Beach, and won on a unanimous 3-0 decision. In the quarterfinals, they had a rematch with an opponent from the preliminary rounds, top-seeded George Mason. The won that debate on a 2-1 decision. In the semifinals, they had another rematch against Liberty, concluding with a 2-1 decision for Liberty.
“Jo and Andrew had their year of hard work produce competitive results. Each of these two highly talented individuals put in countless hours thinking, preparing, meeting and practicing, to achieve a semifinalist finish at the national tournament. A remarkable achievement, every bit earned and deserved,” said Judd Kimball debate coach at UMW.
In addition to those accomplishments, Hudgins was awarded the 8th Speaker at the tournament, and Misker finished 11th. Adrienne Brovero, UMW’s Director of Debate, was recognized by the American Debate Association as the “Judge of the Year” based on student polling. Rucker was also recognized for having begun the season as a novice and moving up and competing in varsity for the second half of the season, which is a relatively rare feat.
Alumni coach Terrell Taylor (’11), summed up the experience, noting “Twelve years ago, I made it to the semifinals of the ADA novice division. It’s exciting to see a new generation playing the game with that level of heart and enthusiasm. Coaching is a labor of love, especially when the debaters bring both talent and effort to the table.”
The team, like many, is now gearing up for moving its operations online. The team is hoping to be able to host multiple virtual public debates later in the semester, which will be open to the public. Information about those events will be available via the team’s social media in later March.