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Georgia Debate Union finishes 2019 as top varsity debate team in the nation

Alan Flurry

For the first time in the program's history the Georgia Debate Union finished the 2018-19 season as the top varsity college debate team in both the American Debate Association and the National Debate Tournament's end-of-the-season rankings. Each ranking is derived from points that two-person teams accumulate for each tournament over the course of the season, which runs from mid-September to the end of March. 

UGA's top ranking in ADA and NDT varsity points pushed it ahead of traditional college debate powerhouses Harvard, Emory, Northwestern, Michigan, Cal-Berkeley, Dartmouth, Wake Forest, among others. 

The Georgie Debate Union was led this year by Advait Ramanan and Swapnil Agrawal, who won the American Debate Association national championship in early March in Athens. The ADA Nationals featured over 100 teams from all across the country. Next year, Ramanan will be working for City Year Americorps in Boston while also serving as an assistant coach for Harvard University's debate team. Agrawal, who was named a Schwarzman Scholar in December, will be studying in China before heading to Harvard Law the following year.   

Nathan Rice and Johnnie Stupek finished second at the National Debate Tournament, which was held at the University of Minnesota (The NDT features the top 78 two-person teams in the nation). While Rice and Stupek lost to the University of Kentucky on a split decision, they defeated many teams on their way to the finals including students from Indiana University, the University of Michigan, Wake Forest University and Harvard University. Their appearance was only the second time UGA has been in the finals of the NDT and the first since 1997.  Next year, Rice will be serving as an assistant coach for the University of California-Berkeley's debate team, while Stupek will be serving as an assistant coach for Dartmouth College's debate team.  

"What the University of Georgia debate team has accomplished as a squad the year is outstanding," said Adrienne F. Brovero, director of debate at the University of Mary Washington and chair of the National Debate Tournament. "To have their season conclude with two different teams reaching the finals of two national championships and qualifying three teams to the National Debate Tournament and having all three teams reach the elimination rounds, is a tremendous set of accomplishments. To finish first in not just one – but two – varsity rankings speaks volumes about the exceptional nature of this team. Topping one of the varsity rankings is a testament to the very high degrees of intellectual rigor, rhetorical skill, critical thinking, and quality research that this squad consistently brought to each and every debate throughout the season. Topping two is extraordinary."

"This is the first time that we have finished ranked first in any college debate organization rankings at the end of the season, let alone two of them," said head debate coach Hays Watson. "The Georgia Debate Union has and continues to be supported by a variety of organizations, including the Division of Student Affairs, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, the UGA Foundation, the Richard B. Russell Foundation, and the Office of the President via the President's Venture Fund.  Our success in 2018-19 would have never been possible without that invaluable support." 

Image: From left: Advait Ramanan and Swapnil Agrawal, Nathan Rice and Johnnie Stupek with championship hardware.

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