Student, Brooke Kimbrough, poses a question on racial inequality and First Amendment rights at the IMU on Tuesday, March 28, 2017. The University held a "Free Speech Day", a forum of guest speakers discussing the importance of the First Amendment. (The Daily Iowan/Ben Smith)

Iowa Brings Two Championship Teams home after debate tournament

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The Hawkeyes became the second school to have two teams as national champions at the same time.

By Andy Mitchell

andrew-mitchell@uiowa.edu

Intercollegiate debating had its own March Madness conclude with Iowa on top in a historic victory on Sunday.

Two University of Iowa debate teams reached and closed out the final round of the Cross Examination Debate Association National Tournament in a double victory, according to a press release. This is the second time in the history of debate that two teams from the same school share the national title. Emory University was the first to achieve the accomplishment, in 1998.

The teams argued in favor of the U.S. federal government establishing national health insurance.

Paul Bellus, the UI coordinator of forensics, said there’s nothing wrong with making history of this kind.

“This victory epitomizes what it means to debate at Iowa,” he said. “Each and every one of them understands their argument sets and have developed the expertise to operate independently at the highest level.”

Seventy-five teams from across the U.S. participated in the tournament, hosted this year by the University of Puget Sound of Tacoma, Washington.

One of the teams — Geordano Liriano and partner Sam Gustafson — went undefeated during the preliminary debates, 8-0. To do so, they beat noted debate juggernauts in USC and Cornell and assumed the No. 1 seed in elimination rounds.

RELATED: UISG presidential candidates square off in debate

Gustafson dedicated his victory to his grandmother, who he learned died after the first day of the tournament.

The second team — Coco Christophersen and partner Brooke Kimbrough — completed the preliminary debates with a 7-1 record, losing to last year’s national champions from Rutgers University. They were seeded third in preliminary debates, and they avenged their loss in the Elite Eight on a 3-0 decision.

“Our founder, Dr. A. Craig Baird, famously stated, ‘You’re on the side of truth,’ ” Bellus said in an email to The Daily Iowan. “This motto drives our students, and this weekend, truth won the day.”

In addition to closing out the national tournament and securing the university’s first co-national champions title, each debater won individual tournament honors. Debate has their own individual debater recognition, similar to football’s Heisman Trophy.

All four Hawkeye debaters were in the top-20 best debaters in the nation. Kimbrough placed second, Gustafson fifth, Liriano ninth, and Christophersen 18th.

For Christophersen, this is her second year of debating after being first exposed to it last year.

Debate has a storied history at Iowa; it was the first student program on campus in 1860. Bellus called it one of the best-kept secrets on campus. Now, he said, the UI is changing the game in the debate scene by the diverse arguments the participants bring to the table, and he likens them to introducing the forward pass to football.

“This was a tremendous feat that few predicted when the season started,” Bellus said in an email to the DI. “These four overcame so many obstacles to accomplish something that hadn’t been done for more than two decades.”

The future looks bright for UI debating; all of the winners are currently juniors and will return to the team next year.

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