University of Mary Washington students have made it convincingly clear: They know how to debate.
In keeping with a longstanding winning tradition, the UMW Debate Team last week wrapped up back-to-back weekends of competitions with a first-place finish at the American Debate Association’s Fall Championship Tournament, proving they’ve adapted successfully to an online format.
Ainsley Rucker and Avery Dover were undefeated throughout the preliminary rounds and entered the elimination rounds as top seeds. They also each received individual speaking recognitions – Rucker, a junior from Winchester, earned second place, and Dover, a freshman from Wichita, Kansas, was the top speaker. The tournament, held via Zoom, attracted teams from states across the country, including California, Texas, Florida and Massachusetts. The pair debated teams from University of Houston, Missouri State University, University of Minnesota and Samford University.
The tournament’s topic was antitrust reform, and UMW’s team successfully argued both sides of the issue. In the finals, Rucker and Dover effectively advocated for antitrust reforms regarding patents, winning a 3-0 decision over a team from Liberty University. This was their second tournament win and final round against Liberty in November. The duo recently competed in that school’s debate tournament, besting teams from James Madison University in the semifinals, and Liberty in the finals.
“We are very proud of Ainsley and Avery for their exceptional debating as well as their development as a partnership,” said UMW Director of Debate Adrienne Brovero, explaining that each had debated with other teammates earlier in the semester. As coach, she said, she sensed the abilities and potential of each student and paired them together. “They exceeded our expectations.”
In 10 days, the duo participated in 17 debates, losing only one. Since then, they have won 15 consecutive debates. Brovero, noted, “Their success reflects well on their efforts and the entire squad, which rallied to help them prepare for every debate.” She said alumni even assisted them with research and strategy.
The last fully in-person college tournament was the American Debate Association National Championship in March 2020 in Las Vegas, where UMW placed third in novice. Since then, all college debates have taken place online. And Mary Washington hosted an online debate earlier this semester.
Virtual debating means more rounds and opponents, Dover said, “all while still sleeping in our own beds at night.” On the downside, “it’s more draining; plus, we don’t get adrenaline and feedback from the other team or the judge and must be vigilant about maintaining internet connections and audio quality.”
Nick Ryan, president of the Cross Examination Debate Association recognized Mary Washington for its high-quality tournaments: “Being able to manage the dual tasks of hosting and competing, and achieving the success that you and your team were able to achieve, is testament to the quality of your students and staff.”
The UMW debate team is hosting an interest meeting today at 4 p.m. in the basement of the English Department building, 1201 William Street. Follow the team on Twitter and Instagram @UMWDebate.
Rucker acknowledged that online debate can be exhausting, but she added that it has also expanded her horizons and given her the opportunity to meet new people. “I can wake up, get ready, walk across the street, and less than an hour later have a fascinating conversation about the nuances of a specific law with someone from across the country.”
Be sure and tune in for the next Mary Talk on Dec. 15, from 7:30 to 9 p.m., as Adrienne Brovero discusses “Why Debate Matters: Lessons Learned While Arguing.”