The University of Wisconsin-Madison Speech and Debate team won the Loyola Rambler Debate Tournament and placed fourth at the Mid-America Forensics League's fourth tournament last week.
“Winning felt cool, it definitely did, but I wouldn’t say it was particularly the highlight of the tournament, I enjoyed the rest of it,” UW-Madison junior and the tournament’s top speaker Zachary Heintz said. “I really enjoyed the in-person tournament, particularly because it helps the sense of community, they’re more fun.”
According to Coach A.J. Carver, the Wisconsin Speech and Debate team is a “whole society” but debate members and speech members meet and compete separately. Debate tournaments involve debating controversial issues – such as politics, economics and religion – while speech tournaments involve either prepared and memorized speeches, or limited preparation speeches being presented either individually or with a partner.
UW-Madison senior William Darbyshire (History and Political Science) and junior Heintz (Economics) won the Loyola Rambler Debate Tournament and made up the top-ranked team after the preliminary rounds. Both Darbyshire and Heintz were happy to be back in person for debate tournaments.
“This was actually my first time competing in an in-person tournament,” Darbyshire said. “It was a much more rewarding experience than debating online via Zoom, and I am really pleased we won the tournament when that was the case.”
UW junior Theo Rehm (Computer Science and Math) and sophomore Jack Klausner (Philosophy and Data Science) also reached the finals, making two of the four final teams in the tournament from UW–Madison.
“It felt really good to make it to the finals, it was chaotic,” Rehm said. “Actually getting to see other people in person, I feel like it’s a lot easier to communicate ideas but you also get to know debaters from other schools.”
The Badgers also had success this weekend at the Mid-America Forensics League’s speech tournament, finishing fourth overall. Team captain and UW senior Marina Kerekes (Anthropology) and sophomore Jason Li (Finance, Investment and Banking) also won Duo Interpretation at this tournament.
“I was surprised,” Li said. “We’ve never placed that high before and we're competing against a few of the top competitors.”
Li has been a part of the Speech and Debate team for a semester and a half.
“For us to get to that high of a point, for all of our effort, our sacrifice, to really amount to that first place certificate and recognition was just absolutely insane,” he said.
Kerekes, who competed in three categories at this tournament, was very excited about their victory.
“It felt really great to see the fruits of my labor working with my partner, ” Kerekes said. “We’ve been working on it intermittently since the spring and it was really cool to see that, ‘Hey, we’re syncing up, and our interpretive choices are being appreciated.’”
Kerekes also emphasized what the success of this tournament meant for the Wisconsin Speech and Debate team as a whole.
The Badgers placed on the top team rosters at both Mid-America Forensics League’s third and fourth tournament, a victory that resembles the Badgers’ incredible speech team success in the 1980’s.
“It shows that we mean business and that Wisconsin Speech and Debate is ready to be back on the map,” Kerekes said.
Looking to the future, Heintz predicts success for the team.
“Over the past few years it’s gotten much larger, and a larger team is generally a more competitive one for a number of reasons,” Heinz said. “As the team has grown, I’m expecting us to do even better continually at tournaments.”
Coach Carver was very excited about this past weekend’s achievement, especially since there was such success for newer members of the team.
“We had many top novice speakers on the speech side, and we had two very young speakers also reach the finals of the Loyola tournament, and that’s tremendous because it shows that we have a strong future,” Carver said.
Both Carver and the team encourage people interested in speech and debate to join them as they gear up for future tournament success this year.
“Your university time is a great opportunity to explore these issues, and the Speech and Debate team is a great place to do it,” Carver said.