Debate Society Wins Big in Panama

Nate+Obbard+%2721+and+Charlotte+Massey+%2719+did+20+rounds+of+competitive+debate+the+United+States+Universities+Debating+Championship+in+Clemson%2C+South+Carolina+and+the+Pan+American+Championship+in+Panama+City%2C+Panama.+
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Debate Society Wins Big in Panama

Nate Obbard '21 and Charlotte Massey '19 did 20 rounds of competitive debate the United States Universities Debating Championship in Clemson, South Carolina and the Pan American Championship in Panama City, Panama.

Nate Obbard '21 and Charlotte Massey '19 did 20 rounds of competitive debate the United States Universities Debating Championship in Clemson, South Carolina and the Pan American Championship in Panama City, Panama.

COURTESY PHOTO

Nate Obbard '21 and Charlotte Massey '19 did 20 rounds of competitive debate the United States Universities Debating Championship in Clemson, South Carolina and the Pan American Championship in Panama City, Panama.

COURTESY PHOTO

COURTESY PHOTO

Nate Obbard '21 and Charlotte Massey '19 did 20 rounds of competitive debate the United States Universities Debating Championship in Clemson, South Carolina and the Pan American Championship in Panama City, Panama.

By ROSE EVANS

In the culmination of a highly successful season, the 2018-19 Middlebury Debate society traveled to Panama City, Panama last week for the Pan American Championships (Pan Ams) and achieved a historic performance for the program.

The annual title tournament features teams from North, Central and South America, bringing together college debaters from the United States, Panama, Colombia, Jamaica and Mexico, among other countries. The tournament includes both an English-speaking division and a Spanish-speaking division, which take place simultaneously. In an international debate community dominated by English-speaking speakers and events, this Spanish facet of Pan Ams increases inclusivity across language barriers and fosters cross-cultural community.

The society sent two debate pairs to the tournament, consisting of Amanda Werner ’21 and Justin Cooper ’22, as well as Nate Obbard ’21 and Charlotte Massey ’19. Additionally, Middlebury Debate member Van Barth ’21 served on the tournament’s adjudication team.

“It was quite exhilarating to compete in Pan Ams,” said Cooper, the society’s Vice President in an email to The Campus.“To represent Middlebury College to all of North, South and Central America is a big role to fill, but I feel that we did a good job of filling it.” Cooper and Werner made it to semifinals

Both Middlebury teams made it through seven preliminary rounds and placed in the top eight teams in the semifinal rounds. Obbard and Massey continued onto the final round, which covered climate change ethics. They ultimately won the tournament’s English division. This marked the team’s first time winning a title tournament in known history since its conception in 1912.

Massey explained that  competing with Obbard was a deciding factor in their success at Pan Ams. “We were very in sync and had our prep time and speaking roles dialed in.” She explained that they have different strengths and that their skill sets balance well. 

In fact, Massey and Obbard had seen success together in several tournaments over the course of the season, competing abroad in Oxford, England and Cape Town, South Africa. One week prior to Pan Ams, the pair ranked 22nd at the United States Universities Debating Championship (USUDC) in Clemson, South Carolina.

COURTESY PHOTO
Members of Middlebury Debate Society traveled to Panama last week to compete in the Pan American Debate Championships

 “In total, we did 20 full rounds of competitive debate during an eight-day period between USUDC and Pan Ams,” Massey said. 

For the society, which has a particularly young membership this season, it has been a record year. In December, Massey and Obbard placed 70th at the World Universities Debating Championship in Cape Town, a competition including 400 teams from over 90 countries. Werner and Quinn Boyle ’21 ranked 224th. 

At the Berkeley IV in January, Massey, Barth and Boyle made it to the semifinals, with Massey ranking third speaker overall. In February, Barth and Obbard made it to the quarterfinals of the US Universities Eastern Championship at George Washington University. At the Empire Debates at Kings College in New York City, Massey and Cooper made it to the semifinals, Massey won second varsity speaker, and Cooper won second novice speaker. 

Massey reflected on her four years on the team, noting that, after graduating a class of talented debaters her first year, the team underwent a redeveloping period. Now, the majority of the team is composed of sophomores and first-years. 

All debaters said that the sense of community on the debate team is the reason they keep working towards their goals, not to mention the valuable critical thinking and presentation skills they are building. 

“Since joining the debate team in my freshman year, I have formed close friendships with other members of the team,” Werner said. “I truly love debate’s close-knit community, and I value how much we support one another both inside and outside of debate rounds.” 

Next year, the team will look to build on its current success with a new group of novices. For more information about the debate society, or to join, contact debateso@middlebury.edu.

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