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Debate Hawks Win at Binghamton

Debate Win BinghamtonThe Monmouth University Debate Hawks had two teams win playoff rounds against George Mason University at the Phyliss Schatz Invitational hosted by SUNY-Binghamton last weekend, Friday, Sept. 20 through Sunday, Sept. 22. 

The tournament included approximately 150 debaters from teams representing 14 universities including: Cornell University, George Mason University, New York University, the U.S. Naval Academy, West Point Military Academy, West Virginia University, Liberty University, University of Rochester, Rutgers, and the New School, among others.  

Two Monmouth teams made it into the playoff rounds on Sunday after competing in six rounds of competition, before defeating two George Mason University teams in the first playoff round: MacKenzie Ricca, a junior political science student, and Matthew Gruhler, a senior political science student; and Payton Collander, a junior criminal justice student, and Anthony Cendagorta, a sophomore sociology student.

After their victories in the playoff rounds, the teams of Ricca and Gruhler, and Collander and Cendagorta went on to debate West Point and Liberty University, respectively, both losing by close margins. The two teams received awards for scoring playoff victories, and were recognized at the award ceremony Sunday afternoon.

“I have been debating since last year, and SUNY-Binghamton was my fourth tournament,” said Gruhler. “This was Mackenzie’s first but at the tournament, she seemed like a seasoned vet due to her sheer determination to practice as much as possible.”

Gruhler said that he and the team prepared a lot, focusing on scrimmaging and learning their arguments. “With the new topic, we needed to study the new case (space exploration), learning the ins and outs of opposing arguments,” he explained. “At first, it seemed extremely challenging but with the aid of Dr. Patten, Julia Bialy, Alexis Vasquez, Maddy Doe, and numerous other fellow debaters, the material and our speeches increasingly improved.”

“Competing at my first debate tournament was so amazing,” said Ricca. “I loved collaborating with all of these amazing Monmouth debaters and meeting great new people while discussing important issues…It was so amazing to be recognized as an octo-finalist (among eight) with my debate partner, Matt, and it’s a trip I will never forget.”

Monmouth had five other teams of two students compete at the tournament including: the two teams of senior political science students Julia Bialy and Maddy Doe, and Alexis Vasquez and Liam Crowley played in the experienced division; junior political science students Yendeli Bello Diana Robles; sophomore political science students Dan Gerdon and Nick Gibson; and senior political science students Mitchell Hendricks and Sunni Vargas. 

Each Monmouth team won at least two rounds during the preliminary six rounds of competition on Friday and Saturday. The teams attribute much of their success to Joe Patten, Ph.D., the Debate Team Advisor and Associate Professor of political science.

“The Debate team is unlike any other and the confidence and knowledge that Dr. Patten, our sole Debate coach, instills in all of us to be able to compete and win against teams that have over 20 coaches is absolutely humbling,” said Gruhler. “Success starts with the mentorship he provides and the leadership that our captains focus on.”

Each year, a topic is picked to be debated at every tournament. The topic for this year centers around U.S. foreign policy with China and Russia, particularly as it relates to the weaponization of space.

The Debate Hawks’ next competition will be at the University of Rochester, on the weekend of Oct. 12.

Patten encourages all interested students to participate. “No debate experience is necessary. All you need is a willingness to try your best and to be fun to travel with on weekend tournaments,” he said. The team typically competes in six tournaments per year, including a tournament in California in the spring. 

“A special thank you to team captains Julia Bialy, Maddy Doe, and Alexis Vasquez for serving as co-captains of the team, and for all of their good work in helping to prepare new debaters for competition,” Patten concluded. 

PHOTO COURTESY of Joe Patten