Georgetown University Debate Team captains Andrew Markoff (SFS ’14) and Andrew Arsht (COL ’14) won their second national debate championship title at the University of Indiana Bloomington on April 1.
After a long tournament that began on March 28, Markoff and Arsht were notified of their win at 2:30 a.m.
“The first person I see is [Arsht] and just the smile on his face, and then all of our teammates were gathered there right behind us, kind of tackle us, and everyone is celebrating,” Markoff said. “It’s just euphoria because of just how hard we’ve worked and how much it takes to get to that point.”
Coach Jonathan Paul also expressed pride in the win.
“I was just completely elated. I was proud of everyone on the team and coaching staff that worked so hard. I was just immensely excited for [them] that they were able to win their last debate and leave the debate team and Georgetown on top,” Paul said.
To qualify for one of the tournament’s 80 spots, a partnership had to be ranked in the national top 16 teams, win regional debates or be directly offered a spot. In addition to Markoff and Arsht, the pair of Andy McCoy (SFS ’16) and Tyler Engler (SFS ’15) also qualified. Markoff and Arsht are ranked third in the nation, while McCoy and Engler are ranked 12th. Going into the tournament, Georgetown overall ranked as the 10th best team.
This year’s National Debate Tournament topic was the reduction of presidential powers. The debaters said that this year’s topic proved especially difficult because of its contentious legal nature.
“The core question of the topic was about legal authority, but the vast majority of the literature wasn’t really about who has control over something like drone strikes — legally. It was more just ‘Are drone strikes good or bad,’” McCoy said. “It was really challenging, but it was good to force a very technical debate over a tough legal issue.”
Markoff and Arsht also won the championship title in 2012; together, the pair holds more championships than all but eight out of the 286 schools that attended the National Debate Tournament. Despite their previous win, however, Markoff and Arsht placed third in last year’s tournament.
“They won a national championship as sophomores, and it happened so fast and was so surreal — it was such a fairytale — that we kind of walked away with it with this unnatural understanding of how hard it was,” Assistant Coach Seth Gannon said. “Last year, they were even better at debate, and they were working so hard and yet didn’t win.”
According to Paul, Markoff and Arsht’s hard work, recruitment and mentorship strengthened the team to its current position as one of the nation’s top debate teams.
“They set the tone for other people on the team with their hard work, their preparation, and we had a great deal of success their first year,” Paul said. “It helped us a lot with recruiting good high school debaters to come to Georgetown and debate.”
Gannon agreed and praised their teamwork.
“They are a finely tuned machine. They kind of read one another’s minds, [and] they work together hardly having to talk,” Gannon said.