Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Debate Team Third in Nation

After a first-place finish in 2012, Andrew Arsht (COL ’14) and Andrew Markoff (SFS ’14) of Georgetown’s debate team finished third in the National Debate Tournament last weekend.

Seventy-eight duos from colleges across the country, including three from Georgetown, competed in the tournament at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, from March 28 to April 1. A pair from Emporia State University won after beating Northwestern University, which had defeated Georgetown in the semifinal round of the tournament.

“It was disappointing because we always look to win,” Markoff said. “Our research didn’t quite get us where we wanted to be.”

In addition to winning the tournament in 2012, Arsht was named best speaker at last year’s conference.

“Their loss to Northwestern was pretty surprising and kind of disappointing,” Holden Choi (SFS ’16), a member of the Georgetown debate team, said. “The rest of us had kind of taken for granted how good the Andrews were.”

Fellow debate team member Andy McCoy (SFS ’16) agreed and praised the Northwestern team.

“They just got us,” McCoy said. “They’re excellent, and they have a really good coaching staff.”

The other two Georgetown teams, the first composed of Tyler Engler (SFS ’15) and McCoy and the second Choi and Peter Vale (COL ’14), lost in the preliminary rounds, both to pairs from Harvard.

Choi said that the tournament could be extremely stressful for participants, even those who have been attending competitions for their entire high school and college careers.

“It’s not surprising to see people break down,” Choi said. “It’s a lot to handle.”

Engler agreed, citing his own high school debate career.

“I did debate for four years in high school,” Engler said. “[In college], it’s more intense, more time intensive, but it’s essentially the same animal.”

This year’s debate topic focused on whether the federal government should increase domestic energy production. In the preliminary rounds, debaters must negate and affirm the resolution a total of four times, while in elimination rounds, the position of each team is decided by coin flip. Each round lasts 1.5 hours, with individual speeches taking six to nine minutes.

The team competes once or twice a month at universities across the country beginning in January, with all competitions focused on a single topic. To prepare, team members spend 20 to 40 hours a week researching a topic and practicing their arguments.

“There’s a constant arms race to find the best arguments,” Markoff said.

Debaters stayed on campus during spring break to prepare for the tournaments, with those who did not compete helping the teams conduct research, including at last weekend’s tournament.

“It was awe-inspiring to see everyone working as one collective unit,” McCoy said.

Markoff agreed and said team members were very close.

“We’ve all become really good friends, really good collaborators and teammates,” Markoff added.

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