Debate team triumphs in Botswana

Numbers:

#1 Top Seeded American Team
#1 Top Seeded American Speaker
16/320 (1st team ranking)
22/320 (2nd team ranking)
“27/640 Akis Gialopsos’ rank as speaker
2 out 5 American Teams to “break”

“Unprecedented.”

That’s how junior Brett Frazer described the success he and his teammates achieved at their most recent tournament.

During the winter break, the UAA Seawolf Debate Team travelled to Botswana, Africa to compete with 160 other universities from around the world at the 2011 “Worlds,” what those in the know call the World Universities Debating Championships.

The team is undeniably one of the best in the country, as evidenced with their current rank, tied for second with Yale, behind only Harvard. Their world rank is currently listed at 12th.

Brett Frazer, junior natural sciences major, made his first appearance at the World Universities Debate Championships.

That may all change after the team’s success at worlds. The team included Drew Cason, Wiley Cason, Brett Frazer, Colin Haughey, Vasilios “Akis” Gialopsos, Michaela Hernandez, Amy Parrent and Amie Stanley along with coaches Steve Johnson and Shawn Briscoe.

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After three days of preliminary debates, only 32 teams out of 320 “broke” into the elimination round. Two of those teams came from UAA.

One team, consisting of Gialopsos and Stanley, won the top seeded American spot at 16th while another team made up of Frazer and Parrent placed 22nd. Those results are unprecedented, as the team explained.

“It’s rare that we even have one team break,” said Cason.

His sentiment was echoed by teammate Brett Frazer.

Akis Gialopsis, senior international studies major, joined partner Amie Stanley (not pictured) in the WUDC

“We amassed 66 points as four teams, which is the best we’ve ever done,” he said. “So, all the teams put together contributed to those 66 points. In addition to those 66 points, we had two teams break, which is also unprecedented.”

Although both teams that broke into the elimination round did not make it beyond the first round, just breaking is considered a successful tournament,

especially for Frazer and Parrent, who had never been to Worlds before.

Only five American teams total made it into that round. UAA moved two teams forward while two others were from Yale and the another team came from the University of Vermont.

Also impressive was Gialopsos’ ranking as the 27th best individual speaker and highest ranked American out of the 640 total competitors.

The topics the team debated were wide ranging. For instance, one topic was whether the South American Development Community (SADC) should include a political dimension. Another topic of debate was whether national sports teams should be comprised of participants that reflect the ethnic makeup of the nation they represent.

Such a variety of topics requires much preparation. In order to prepare, the teams create brief books that have information on dozens of possible topics. The brief books, which are about as thick as a cinder block and might even weigh as much, travel with them to the tournaments. Sometimes they get used, sometimes they do not.

Having specialized knowledge about the subject is not exactly necessary, especially since the debaters only have 15 minutes from the time they are given a topic to the time the debate begins.

Amy Parrent, undeclared sophomore, gives a speech at the WUDC.

“You can always find something to debate about. I didn’t know anything about SADC, but you can debate about the nature of political unity,” said Brett Frazer. “So even if you don’t know the details about SADC, given that 15 minutes of prep

time, you can usually come up with arguments to discuss broad principles.”

Frazer and Cason attribute the success to the hard work and dedication of the entire team, including the coaches. Practice makes perfect, especially for the UAA Seawolf Debate team.

“It was remarkable how close our practice rounds were in terms of quality to the highest level of debate rounds that I watched at the tournament,” said Cason.

And everyone is invited to those practices. While the team has less than 20 members that travel and are competitive, up to double that number show up just for the stimulating conversation they find. And the team welcomes it.

“Anyone can come to practice and participate in anyway they want to, even if they just want to hang out and watch debates,” Frazer said.

Those practices happen Friday morning and Tuesday evening in the Administrative/Humanities building. Also on tap for the team are the upcoming Cabin Fever debates and hosting the Alaska State High School Drama, Debate and Forensic competition.