Four debaters placed in the top 20 at the Tournament of Champions in Kentucky May 1 to 3.
Approximately 300 debaters from across the nation competed. Whitman sent a record number of 19 students. Each debater earned at least one at-large national bid or two bids from previous tournaments to qualify.
“TOC is a conglomeration of all of the best debaters in the country,” senior Jessica Sheehan said. “To be able to compete with them makes all of the victories we’ve had this year even sweeter.”
Like Sheehan, Whitman debaters finished strong in the elimination rounds, setting new records.
In Public Forum, an event in which pairs debate on current events, Whitman was the only school to send two teams to the top eight. Seniors Rachel Umans and Sarah Houston finished third, after losing to this year’s champions. Senior Aaron Schifrin and junior James Dionne finished fifth.
Whitman sent a record ten debaters in Lincoln-Douglas, a one-on-one debate about philosophical issues. Eight of the 10 finished with winning records. Four advanced to elimination rounds, setting a new record.
In LD elimination rounds, junior Alex Zimmermann finished in the top 20. Seniors Ben Lewis, Perry Green and Jane Kessner advanced to top 16, tying the national record. Lewis won two more rounds to finish in third place.
Out of five students in Congress, Sheehan and juniors Ross Slaughter and Mike Neubauer advanced to semifinals. Slaughter finished in fifth place out of 80 entries nationwide.
The debate team’s strong performance in this tournament solidifies its reputation as a team, Sheehan said.
“Our performance and how well we did nationally, especially at this tournament, gives us more recognition,” she said. “People realize that Whitman debate is a powerhouse and a threat.”
Many debaters attributed the team’s reputation and success at TOC to head coach Anjan Choudhury, who will be leaving at the end of this year.
“I think it’s really great that in one of Anjan’s last tournaments, he got to see the team that he’s help create in the past four years be so successful,” Umans said. “It does reflect a lot on how much he’s contributed to the team and what a huge influence he’s been.”
Choudhury said he’s extremely proud of the strong finish, but he’s even more proud of the team’s collaboration.
“The thing I will remember the most wasn’t the big rounds that they won, but it was that each night back at the hotel, all of the different people would get in a room and work to help get everyone ready for the next day,” Choudhury said. “We had another coach helping us out, and I remember he said to me, ‘This just doesn’t happen on other teams.’ And I think he was right. I think that’s just a really amazing thing.”