UMW Debate Wins National Championship

University of Mary Washington Debate Team seniors Colin McElhinny and Thomas Pacheco talked their way to the top on March 16 when they won the American Debate Association National Championship at Liberty University. Pacheco received The Julia Burke Award for Character and Excellence in American Debate Association Policy Debate.

Colin McElhinny (left) and Thomas Pacheco (right)

Colin McElhinny (left) and Thomas Pacheco (right) took home the gold on March 16 when they won the American Debate Association National Championship.

“UMW Debate had a great weekend – winning the championship and the Burke Award speaks volumes about the quality of our squad effort,” said Judd D. Kimball, assistant debate coach at UMW. “We are very pleased to bring home a national championship in debate to UMW.”

McElhinny and Pacheco finished as the second seed after the preliminary rounds, with five wins and one loss to the defending champion and top seed Wake Forest University. Throughout the preliminary rounds, their opponents included teams from Liberty, George Mason University and University of Houston. In the elimination rounds, they debated Vanderbilt in the quarters and University of Minnesota in the semifinals. In the final round, they had a rematch with Wake Forest, and successfully defeated them on a unanimous decision. Pacheco was recognized as the competition’s fifth-place speaker and McElhinny ranked third.

The Burke award is given to a student whose qualities include “excellence in and passion for debate, a commitment to helping others, love and respect for the American Debate Association policy debate community and dedication to maintaining friendships despite the pressures of competition.” Students are nominated by coaches and peers, with the winner determined by a ballot of the students competing at the tournament.

The American Debate Association was founded in 1986, and this was the 27th year it has held a national tournament. This is the second American Debate Association National Championship title for UMW. The team also won the title in 2009.

UMW Debate concludes its regular competitive season at the National Debate Tournament at Indiana University next week, followed by multiple public debate competitions throughout the region. Follow @UMWDebate on twitter for the latest updates.


  1. This is a terrific accomplishment and the University should be very proud. Cheers to the debaters, the excellent coaching staff, and to UMW for supporting them.

  2. James DeLoatch says:

    Great job guys! You make the UMW Community very proud!

  3. Patti Kemp says:

    Congratulations on this fantastic accomplishment. The alumni are very proud of your success and delighted with the national recognition you bring to UMW. Your national championship is yet another example of the academic excellence at UMW.
    Patti Kemp
    President, UMW Alumni Association