Debate team succeeds over break
When people ask freshman Korey Johnson how her break was, she says it wasn’t much of a break—she read, studied, researched, thought and debated.
As a member of one of two Towson Forensics teams, Johnson traveled to Texas and Annapolis over the winter break to compete in three tournaments, totaling 30 debates in three weeks.
“Our break consisted of work,” she said.
At the first tournament at the University of Texas-Dallas, Johnson came out as the sixth speaker and sophomore Ameena Ruffin, her team partner, earned the first top speaker award. There were a total of 78 debate teams at the tournament.
Ruffin has a rational approach to her arguments while Johnson has passion and is emotionally attached to her arguments, Johnson said.
“So it’s like if you say something mean, I will emotionally respond back at you and Ameena is like ‘Well, I guess that was a dumb argument’,” she said. “I think we balance each other out pretty well and I think that works to our advantage.”
Johnson and Ruffin ended preliminary rounds with a record of 6-1 and were the second seed in the tournament. They advanced to the octafinal elimination round, a bracket of debates between the top 16 teams, and then fell to the University of Texas-Austin.
“The first tournament was our best tournament, I think, even though we didn’t make it as far as we did at the second tournament,” Johnson said. “I think that me and Ameena felt like we had something to prove and so we worked really hard. So even though we dropped in octos, we beat like one of the best teams in the country.”
One day later, Johnson and Ruffin along with the other team, consisting of freshman Lenny Herrera and sophomore Kevin Whitley, then traveled to the University of North Texas. They were competing against 66 other debate teams.
At this tournament Johnson and Ruffin made it to quarterfinals, a bracket of debates between the top eight teams, before losing to Trinity University. Whitley and Herrera lost in the double octafinal elimination round, which is between the top 32 teams.
At this point the teams had totaled 19 debates over the course of nine days, Head Debate Coach Stephen Davis said.
“Imagine the smartest people you know all in a room yelling at each other about how right they are, for two hours at a time, 19 times, in nine days,” he said.
After a short week of rest, the forensics students were back on the road for the United States Naval Academy debate tournament in Annapolis, where there were a total of 33 debate teams.
It was here that the Whitley-Herrera team had hit their high note, Whitley said.
“We made it to quarterfinals,” he said. “I was top speaker, Lenny was second speaker so it was like we did the work that was necessary to beat the competition that was there.”
Unlike Ruffin and Johnson, Whitley and Herrera are similar in their debate style—fast and technical, they said.
Director of Forensics Jennifer Potter said it was fantastic to see the teams so consistent competing at a high level because sometimes when teams compete so much in a short period, they lose momentum.
“I am very proud of both the teams that traveled this break,” she said. “As an academic, it is so impressive to see students who spend their entire school year, breaks and all, researching, reading, thinking, speaking and debating.”
Ruffin said the constant tournaments and work, although stressful, are a type of fun only those who love debate can enjoy.
“It’s about as wonderful as it is horrible,” she said.
This upcoming month, the team will prepare for the District Tournament at the end of February. Immediately after, they are hosting the JV Novice Nationals and then they have two weeks to prepare for the National Debate Tournament, Davis said.
“This second semester we call the death march because it’s really nothing but getting ready for nationals,” he said.