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March 31, 2009
By John Trent
In the annals of modern collegiate parliamentary debate, few have ever done what University of Nevada, Reno debate team members David Pena and Max Alderman did on Monday, March 30 when they captured first place in the National Parliamentary Debate Association Championship Tournament in Stockton, Calif.
Pena and Alderman not only defeated competitors from 233 teams for first place, they also become only the third team in the history of collegiate parliamentary debate to win the sport’s two most prestigious prizes in the same season. A week ago, Pena and Alderman took first place at the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence in Berkeley, Calif.
According to Phil Sharp, director of Nevada’s debate program, the victory on Monday further underscored Pena and Alderman’s unique abilities. Pena and Alderman, who used a philosophy-based approach to win the Tournament of Excellence in Berkeley, used a much more topic- and argument-based tack in winning Monday’s Championship Tournament.
“With 233 teams, instead of 64 (at the Tournament of Excellence), the tournament required much more adaptation to the audience,” Sharp said. “It really showed David and Max’s versatility. This weekend, they debated the topic and engaged in a completely different way.
“The same team winning both championships doesn’t happen very often, because often different sets of skills are required. To back up one championship with a similar performance is very impressive.”
Although Pena, a senior from Overton, Nev., and Alderman, a sophomore from Reno, lost a preliminary round match, they were still in good position following a 7-1 overall record. With little room for error in a single-elimination format, Pena and Alderman disposed of their competition in dominating fashion, winning three matches 5-0, 5-0, 7-0 and then defeating the University of Oregon in the final, 6-3. Sharp said that most championship matches are evenly matched affairs, usually scored 5-4, so the 6-3 final score was a significant testament to Pena and Alderman’s skill.
“Everything has just come together at the right time,” said Sharp, whose team has seen a number of firsts during a grueling season that began in September and concludes at the end of April when Nevada’s Matthew Hogan will participate in the individual Lincoln-Douglas debates in Springfield, Mo.
“I don’t know how many people have told me that they have never seen a team progress as we have, from the end of last season to this season. David and Max have marched forward and have moved to the front of the pack, triumphant.”