It's a true "David and Goliath" story for the Reinhardt College Debate Team. The newly founded team of six students -- five freshmen and one junior -- competed in the Miami University Annual Invitational Debate Tournament on Jan. 12-14 in Oxford, Ohio, and were able to capture a win in the tournament's semi-final round.
Reinhardt debate team members, (from left) freshmen Andrea Cole from Powder Springs, Ga., James Excell from Duluth, Ga., Jennifer Stogner from Calhoun, Ga., Jeremy Ragan from Marietta, Ga., and Christian Abrams from Locust Grove, Ga., and junior Michael Grimes from Canton, Ga., traveled by van to the snowy steppes of Ohio for the tournament with their team advisor and coach, Dr. Kevin Crawford, assistant professor of English, who is in his first year at Reinhardt. It was a two-day competition of intensive policy debate on the Middle East and was the group's debut into the collegiate world of debate.
"For the Reinhardt team to enter into this competition at the middle of the season and new to the activity is quite remarkable," says Dr. Ben Voth, director of forensics at Miami University. "This is an intense intellectual activity involving thousands of pages of research. The debaters and coach showed remarkable poise and strength, and because they decided to begin their debating at the junior varsity-level rather than novice shows even more remarkable courage and the tenacity to learn the most."
Though they were registered to compete at the junior varsity-level, the Reinhardt team ended up debating in the tournament at the varsity level because of a registration and scheduling error. Going into the competition as the underdog, Reinhardt competed against nationally ranked and highly experienced teams including Michigan State University, University of Kentucky and Illinois State University. Team members Cole and Stogner found themselves debating against Illinois State in the semi-final round and taking the win.
"At first, the realization that we made it to semi-finals was surreal," reveals Stogner. "We were elated, but really above all we were just happy that we could put the Reinhardt name out there legitimately. To be honest, I'm still feeling euphoria from winning that debate round against Illinois State, and I will probably always remember the moment when the judge announced that he wanted to vote for Reinhardt."
Reinhardt's debate team was founded in Fall '07 by Stogner. Her past experiences in debate were the encouragement for her to develop and lead a team at the College.
"I did debate in high school at Cass High, and I really enjoyed it," Stogner explains. "Being in a debate team was like being part of a glorified family of nerds where everyone shares the same interests. Even at the tournament, we would stay up until two in the morning contemplating the validity of Baudarillard's claims, or whether or not to listen to the beliefs of Agamben, and yet none of us thought it was strange that with our free time, we'd choose to discuss policy and philosophy. Debate is really a life-changing experience."
Crawford is proud of the team's accomplishments and is honored at how Reinhardt was embraced by the tournament community.
"I've never seen a more welcoming body in a competitive context," says Crawford. "When Reinhardt was awarded its semi-finalist trophy, there was a two-minute round of vigorous applause, movingly sincere, whistles and shouts for the entire squad. The teams were delighted to have another team for a friend and competitor, and said so to all of us -- even as our van was getting snowed in!"
For more information about the Reinhardt College Debate Team, contact Crawford at 770-720-5937 or KSC@reinhardt.edu.
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