Undebatable greatness

In Tech’s Office of Communications there proudly sits a large, old, wooden trophy case, where dozens of glimmering gold trophies stand tall and erect. Some of these trophies date back to the early 1940s. The trophy case appears to be busting at the seams, yet each year more and more trophies enter the case to rest triumphantly on a shelf.

Tech’s Speech and Debate team has a long, rich history of success. This year’s team is continuing the winning tradition for which they are well known across the Southeast. The first tournament of the fall semester was held Oct. 18-20 in Berea, Ky. The team racked up on awards, including second place in the large school debate sweepstakes, and third place in the large school individual event sweepstakes.

“We did overall well,” said Laton Key, a junior who is serving as president of Speech and Debate team. “There are definitely some things that we need to improve on, but we definitely faced some challenges this weekend, as a team, that are going to help us grow.”

There were 11 total competitors representing Tech at the tournament, many of whom are new to the team. Based on this past weekend’s experiences, team members are optimistic about future opportunities for success.

“We are a young team, but we still did very well, especially considering how we lost one of our best debaters last year to graduation,” said team member Ken Brown, a sophomore political science major.  “We had a first time varsity team make it to the top four and in total won more than 20 awards. So, the future is looking extremely bright for the program.”

Graham Kash has taught in the communication department for decades and has long coached the team. Jacob Metz, professor of English, also coaches the team. The coaches said they are excited to be working with the team and have high hopes for the season, which will consist of five more tournaments.       

“I am excited about it [this year’s team],” said Metz. “We’ve brought back a strong varsity squad from last year, which should compete really well. With having a strong varsity core, they are able to work with our novice, and help them get better faster than if it were just the coaching staff.”

While the team is doing well, there are still obstacles that must be overcome in order to ensure the team’s longevity and success.

“Continuing recruitment is a constant struggle,” said Metz. “But we are working on improving our recruitment avenues, so that we can get more people involved and ensure that we are better known across campus and heard of more.”

Key said this year’s team is very diverse, and getting everyone on the same page has been challenging.

“We are very various in our ideas, and the challenge has been getting all those various ideas together, but it is definitely possible,” Key said. “We can make our differences work for the good or for the bad. But we are definitely striving to make them work for the good.”

The team relies heavily on support from alumni members for both funding and guidance. Key said alumni members provide connectedness, fellowship and provide a solid base.

Additionally, they are able to relate to current members, because they have been there, and they know how to prepare for and impress the judges.

Each year, on the day of the Homecoming game, the team hosts a breakfast for all alumni members.

“It is a get-together for the alumni to meet the current crop of competitors and for the competitors to meet the alumni,” said Metz. “We want to continue to form those bonds and that community with each other.”

Both coaches, as well as the president of the team, encourage anyone who is interested in the Speech and Debate team to attend a practice. Each week, two practices are held; they are on Monday and Wednesday nights in RUC room 369 starting at 6:30 p.m.