Young Debate Team Picks Up Steam

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Alejandro Baez (left) makes a point during debate practice as Ragya Kaul (center) and debate director Scott Herndon take notes.
Members of a young UT Dallas debate team recently made it to the final eight teams of a key tournament, and three students also won individual honors for their debate skills.
Scott Herndon, UT Dallas director of debate, said the team is mostly made up of freshmen and sophomore students, which has created an adjustment period for the team members.
“They’re new to college. They’re learning how to manage school and competition, and then they’re finding that college debate is much harder, faster, and technical than high school debate,” Herndon said.
In January, three teams of two members each competed at the Wichita State University debate tournament — two teams in the open division and one in junior varsity division.
The open division teams of Ragya Kaul / Alex Baez and Evan Gilbert / Brandon Johnson each advanced to the octofinals, amassing a record of 4-3. The JV team of Aisha Bawany / Gabe Sanchez finished with a record of 4-2 and advanced to the semi-finals where they defeated Wichita State on a 2-1 decision. Bawany and Sanchez lost on a 2-1 decision in the finals, claiming second place in the JV division.
Kaul was named fifth best speaker overall in the open division. Bawany was the top overall speaker in the JV division, with Sanchez placing second.

“I think if we keep these kids together for the next 3-4 years, plus new recruits, it could be one of the best teams we’ve ever had.”
— Scott Herndon, UT Dallas director of debate

Herndon said the team is setting its sights on reaching the National Debate Tournament, which will be held in March in Wichita, Kansas.
The UT Dallas debate team has been invited to the national tournament for 14 straight years. No matter how the team performs this spring, Herndon is optimistic about the team’s prospects for the years ahead.
“The fall semester was an adjustment period. We’re starting to get our legs under us now. I think if we keep these kids together for the next 3-4 years, plus new recruits, it could be one of the best teams we’ve ever had. We’ve got that level of talent on the squad,” he said.
–Phil Roth

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