Speech and Debate Team wins back-to-back national championships in debate, ninth in speech

Photo Credit: Speech and Debate Team
Tue, 04/18/2023 - 14:11

Photo above: Debate Team members. Back row: Zein Saleh, Omaima Lado, Nevin Butler. Third row: Connor Whalen, Grant McKeever, Luke McDermott, Dante Dyches-Chandler. Second row: Juliana Quattrocchi, Zach Wallenburg, Amber Tanehill, Elena Belashchenko. Front row: Nicholas Wallenburg, Arnav Rishi.

It took 151 years for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Speech and Debate Team to have their first team national championship in 2022, but it did not take long for the team to win their second. The Debate Team took first place in the Lincoln Douglas Debate at the National Forensic Association’s National Tournament held in Peoria, Illinois on the campus of Bradley University April 14-17. The Speech Team finished in 9th place at the American Forensic Association’s National Speech Tournament, which took place on campus April 1-3.

The Husker Debate Team is one of the deepest and youngest in the country. The team qualified 12 students for the national tournament, the most of any school. The team was led by senior Nicholas Wallenburg of Lenexa, Kansas who went 11-0 on his way to winning the individual national championship. Seven Huskers posted winning records and advanced to elimination rounds. Sophomore Zachary Wallenburg of Lenexa, Kansas and junior Juliana Quattrocchi and first-year student Zein Saleh, both of Lincoln, Nebraska, advanced to the Sweet 16. Omaima Lado of Omaha, Nebraska; Elena Belashchenko of Lincoln, Nebraska; and Nevin Butler of Millard, Nebraska advanced to elimination rounds. This was the sixth consecutive year Nebraska has finished in the top five in the nation in the Lincoln Douglas Debate.

“Winning is difficult, repeating as champions is even harder," Aaron Duncan, director of the team, said. "Back to back national champions is a rare feat and one that all of these students should treasure. This is a special group of students and coaches who worked hard incredibly hard to achieve this success.”

Speech Team members

Speech Team members. Back row: Eliana Siebe-Walles, Reed Greger, David Swotek, Marcus Cureton, Zoey Moser, Victoria Thomas, Kallum Osborne. Middle row: Juliana Quattrocchi, Sydney Kwasa, Hailey Cheek, Maddie Stoerp, Jake Garlock, Adison Spray, Shelby Hindman, Emma Cavalier. Front row: Hana Maddox, Keelie Strating, Mel Schwensen, Gwen Leuschen, Kayli Pham, Janana Khattak.

The team’s success in debate comes on the heels of its achievements earlier this month at the National Speech Tournament, hosted by Santa Ana College, where 21 students qualified for the National Speech Tournament and competed against 57 universities and colleges across the country. Junior Janana Khattak of Lincoln, Nebraska placed third in communication analysis, first-year student Sydney Kwasa of Omaha, Nebraska placed fourth in poetry interpretation, and senior Jake Garlock of Omaha, Nebraska was selected to the National All-American Team, one of only 12 this year. The team advanced in 12 events to elimination rounds, a team record, and five events to the semifinal round.

The debate team was led to success by director Justin Kirk and graduate assistant coach Zachary Thornhill.

"We are overwhelmed by the outcome of the tournament," Kirk said. "These students put in the time and effort to become champions. I could not be prouder of them. I am especially happy for Nick Wallenburg. For the last four years, he put in countless hours of research and practice to become a champion."

“The glory of this championship will shine brightly, but it will always be out shown by the grit our students bring to the team and the university through hard work, thoughtfulness, resilience, and selflessness," Duncan said. "Their success is the product of extraordinary effort, but also the product of a great university that values research, integrity, and the search for knowledge. UNL is an institution that celebrates debate, discussion, and dialogue. Our success is the direct result of the support from the Department of Communication Studies, the College of Arts and Sciences, alumni, and the Chancellor’s Office.”

The Speech and Debate team is part of the Department of Communication Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. The department explores human communication as it shapes and is shaped by relationships, institutions, and societies. Its main areas of expertise are interpersonal and family communication, organizational communication, and rhetoric and public culture.