University’s debate team crowned Season Sweepstakes National Champion

Individual team member also selected as All-American, recognized for academic and competitive success

3/24/2014 - By: Natalie Savidge
Debate team season sweepstakes The University of Nevada, Reno debate team was awarded the National Parliamentary Debate Association Season Sweepstakes National Title Sunday, March 23, after the national tournament wrapped up. Pictured (from left to right, back row): Joshua Mills, Assistant Coach Matthew Hogan, Jakob Christensen, Cory Nims (far back), Jonathan McGuire, Director of Forensics and Coach Philip Sharp, Kelly Brill and Brenden Georg. Front row (l-r): Sean Lopez, Evelyn Valencia, Mariah Wilkinson, Haley Danley and Assistant Coach Emily Sheldon. Photo taken by Tracy Valgento.

The University of Nevada, Reno debate team returns to Reno today after a week-and-a-half of grueling competitions in Flagstaff, Ariz., at the National Parliamentary Debate Association National Championship Tournament. With hopes to return to Reno with another trophy to add to their season's collection, the team walked away with - yes, another trophy - but more impressively, the NPDA Season Sweepstakes National Title. 

"It is special because everyone contributed by winning rounds throughout the year," University debate coach Phil Sharp said. "I challenged the team to make this title our goal this year. We discussed the way in which even a freshman team winning one more round could be the difference in the end. The final results were close."

The top-three teams were separated by less than five points, with Cedarville University in Ohio coming in second place and Concordia University Irvine in California placing third.

Sharp explained that, during the weekend's tournament, three University of Nevada, Reno teams, or duos, advanced to elimination rounds, and two were defeated in the first elimination round. Junior Kelly Brill and senior Jonathan McGuire finished 17th, for a team finish of eighth place out of 52 universities.  

The season-long first ranking beat out 189 other teams and was earned throughout the course of the debate season which factored in all of the teams' performances as opposed to just the national tournament.

"I know that I set the bar high on this one," Sharp, also the University's forensics director in the College of Liberal Arts, said. "This is a team accomplishment."

McGuire, a Reno High School graduate and recently named Fraternity Man of the Year by the University's Greek Life for the newly charted Kappa Sigma Fraternity, was also recognized as the 14th speaker out of 302 competitors. Additionally, he was selected as an All-American, an award that only went to eight individuals who show both academic and competitive success. He is the fourth member of a University team to receive this distinction since 2009.

McGuire, also participated in the 19-year-old U.S. vs. Ireland debate competition, in which he was selected to be one of three all-star American members to make up the national team. The topic selected for that debate centered around ethics and military operations. The Americans defended the side that troops who are carrying out orders from superior officers or military leadership should be immune from punishment. 

"The Irish debates are an annual tradition that I took considerable pride in competing in," McGuire, who is studying political science with the intention of going to law school, said. "Participating in an exhibition format is more fun and less stressful than the competitive rounds we have during a debate season. It provides an opportunity to make jokes and entertain the audience."

The Irish debaters are always known for their humor and ability to win over the audience in the fun-spirited event. Although the U.S. team did not manage a victory, McGuire said it was an amazing experience regardless of the outcome. 

"I think this year's performance by the Americans was well received by the audience," McGuire said. "While my future as a comedian is unlikely, it is a rewarding experience to make a room of 200 people laugh."

Members of the University team, which is part of the Department of Communications Studies, took the short drive to the Grand Canyon in between the Tournament of Excellence earlier in the week and the Championship Tournament. 

"It was a nice distraction," Sharp said. "But our focus remained on the tournament and they were quickly back to business. This group of talented and hardworking Nevada students gave it their all." 

For more information about the University's debate team, contact Sharp at psharp@unr.edu or 360-747-2944.


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