Valdosta Daily Times

April 1, 2014

University’s debate team rides a wave of success

Dean Poling
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Valdosta State University Debate Team has enjoyed a busy and successful year with multiple wins in several competitions.

But the team has more to offer than just competitions. It offers preparation for life through the skills of expressing analytical thought. Coached by Dr. Michael Eaves and Kevin Bryant, the VSU Blazers Debate Team practices regularly to hone these skills.

“VSU holds three practices a week. At two of the three practices, we talk about current events and what is happening in the news for about 20 minutes,” says Bryant, who is a VSU graduate student scheduled to graduate in May with a master’s degree. “Then we hold an actual debate practice round. On Sunday practice, I try and teach lectures about various debate positions and how to run them effectively.”

These lectures can cover everything from counter plans to “Kritics” to disadvantages, affirmative strategy, negative strategy, and case outlining to practice flowing, which is writing what the other debaters say, to watching debate rounds on the Internet.

“This is so the novice can get the foundation or base of knowledge they need, and then the more varsity members get to practice those skills during the practice rounds,” Bryant says. “Also, this helps so the novice doesn’t feel overwhelmed by going up against the varsity debaters. This lasts for about a semester, then the second semester, we start having the novice practice against the varsity to help develop their skills as well.”

The debate team’s mission is simple — provide a means for student improvement.

“The mission of the team for me is to improve speaking skills, critical thinking skills and education in a fast-paced, friendly, competitive environment,” Bryant says. “We have several majors that include communications, political science, biology, Spanish, American sign language, economics/business, and even marketing. So we are pretty diverse. I prefer the diversity, because when I don’t know it, someone else might.”

All anyone has to do to join the team is be a VSU student, attend practices and debate team mates. It is an extracurricular activity but there are also classes that offer academic credits.

“You can take both classes to partially fulfill a communication minor and you don’t even have to be on the team,” Bryant says. “You don’t have to take either class to be on the team although they may help. One rule we have implemented is if you can’t make it to practice then you can’t travel to tournaments. Some students are just naturally gifted or more knowledgeable, but they have to put the initiative into the team by helping out other team members during practice.”

A look at some of the wins by the VSU Debate Team this academic year.



“Chicken and the Egg,” UNG, Gainesville, Sept. 19-21.

1st place NPDA Sweeps

2nd Place Overall Sweeps

Semi Finalist Varsity IPDA – JB Desselle

Semi Finalist Novice NPDA – Ernestine Simpkins

Quarter Finalist Varsity NPDA – JB Desselle, Ryan Baerwalde

Quarter Finalist Varsity NPDA – Hannah Tabrizi, Allante Fairley

Quarter Finalist Varsity NPDA – Keven Rudrow, Chesley McNeil

Quarter Finalist Varsity IPDA – Allante Fairley

Quarter Finalist Novice IPDA – Ryan Baerwalde

1st Place Varsity IPDA Speaker – Allante Fairley

2nd Place Debut IPDA Speaker – Ryan Baerwalde

3rd Place Novice IPDA Speaker – Ryan Baerwalde

4th Place Varsity IPDA Speaker – JB Desselle

5th Place Varsity NPDA speaker – JB Desselle

5th Place Debut NPDA Speaker – Ryan Baewalde

10th Place Debut NPDA Speaker – Maya Weaver

13th Place Varsity NPDA Speaker – Chesley McNeil

14th Place Varsity NPDA Speaker – Hannah Tabrizi

15th Place Varsity NPDA Speaker – Allante Fairley

16th Place Varsity NPDA Speaker – Keven Rudrow

16th Place Novice NPDA Speaker – Maya Weaver

18 trophies and 24 awards



“King Classic,” Morehouse College, Atlanta, Oct. 11–13.

2nd place Overall Sweeps

2nd Place NPDA Sweeps

3rd Place IPDA Sweeps

2nd Place NPDA Varsity – Erin Taliafero (Maverick)

Semi Finalist NPDA Varsity – Keven Rudrow

Semi Finalist NPDA Varsity – Chesley McNeil

Quarter Finalist NPDA Varsity – JB Desselle

Quarter Finalist NPDA Varsity – Ryan Baerwalde

Quarter Finalist NPDA Novice – Mercy Dahn

Quarter Finalist NPDA Novice – Ladaisha Wilson

1st Place NPDA Novice Speaker – Mercy Dahn

6th Place NPDA Varsity Speaker – JB Desselle

8th Place NPDA Varsity Speaker – Ryan Baerwalde

Semi Finalist IPDA Professional – Yannick Gill

Semi Finalist IPDA Novice – Maya Weaver

Quarter Finalist IPDA Varsity – JB Desselle

Quarter Finalist IPDA Novice – Mercy Dahn

1st Place IPDA Varsity Speaker – Erin Taliafero

2nd Place IPDA Professional Speaker – Wendy Hiler

4th Place IPDA Novice Speaker – Mercy Dahn

5th Place IPDA Professional Speaker – Yannick Gill

5th Place IPDA Novice Speaker – Ryan Baerwalde

7th Place IPDA Novice Speaker – Allante Fairley

18 trophies and 23 awards



“Second Blazer Classic,” VSU, Valdosta, Oct. 25-26.

1st Place Overall Sweeps

2nd Place NPDA Sweeps

2nd Place IPDA Sweeps

1st Place NPDA Novice – Maya Weaver

1st Place NPDA Novice – Essence Oliver

1st Place IPDA Novice – Halle Johnson

Semi Finalist NPDA Varsity – Keven Rudrow

Semi Finalist NPDA Varsity – Chesley McNeil

Semi Finalist NPDA Varsity – Allante Fairley

Semi Finalist NPDA Varsity – Hannah Tabrizi

Semi Finalist IPDA Varsity – Allante Fairley

Quarter Finalist IPDA Varsity – Keven Rudrow

Quarter Finalist IPDA Varsity – Hannah Tabrizi

Quarter Finalist IPDA Novice – Nolan Ripple

3rd Place NPDA Varsity Speaker – Allante Fairley

3rd Place IPDA Varsity Speaker – Hannah Tabrizi

4th Place NPDA Novice Speaker – Maya Weaver

5th Place IDPA Varsity Speaker – Allante Fairley

5th Place IPDA Novice Speaker – Halle Johnson

5th Place NPDA Novice Speaker – Essence Oliver

7th Place IPDA Varsity Speaker – Keven Rudrow

8th Place NPDA Varsity Speaker – Hannah Tabrizi

8th Place IPDA Varsity Speaker – Chesley McNeil

9th Place NPDA Novice Speaker – Ladaisha Wilson

20 trophies and 24 awards



“28th Red River Classic,” LSUS, Shreveport, La., Nov. 7-10.

3rd Place Debate Sweepstakes

Quarter Finalist NPDA Open – Mercy Dahn

Quarter Finalist NPDA Open – Essence Oliver

Octa Finalist IPDA Varsity – Hannah Tabrizi

Octa Finalist IPDA Varsity – Allante Fairley

1st Place NPDA Novice Speaker – Mercy Dahn

2nd Place IPDA Varsity Speaker – JB Desselle

4th Place NPDA Open Speaker – Mercy Dahn

4th Place IPDA Team Open Speaker – JB Desselle

5th Place IPDA Varsity Speaker – Allante Fairley

10 Trophies and 10 awards



“Third Annual Volunteer Classic,” UTK, Knoxville, Tenn., Jan. 17-19.

1st place Overall Sweepstakes

1st Place NPDA Sweepstakes

2nd Place IPDA Sweepstakes

Special Award – Overall Top Novice Competitor – Ryan Baerwalde

1st Place NPDA Varsity – JB Desselle

1st Place NPDA Varsity – Keven Rudrow

1st Place NPDA Novice – Ryan Baerwalde

1st Place NPDA Novice - Essence Oliver

2nd Place NPDA Novice – Nolan Ripple (Maverick)

2nd Place IPDA Varsity – JB Desselle

Semi Finalist IPDA Professional – Kevin Bryant

Semi Finalist IPDA Novice – Ryan Baerwalde

Semi Finalist IPDA Varsity – Allante Fairley

Quarter Finalist NPDA Varsity – Erin Taliaferro

Quarter Finalist NPDA Varsity – Mercy Dahn

1st Place NPDA Novice Speaker – Ryan Baerwalde

1st Place IPDA Novice Speaker – Ryan Baerwalde

1st Place IPDA Varsity Speaker – JB Desselle

2nd Place NPDA Varsity Speaker – JB Desselle

3rd Place IPDA Professional Speaker – Kevin Bryant

3rd Place IPDA Novice Speaker – Essence Oliver

15th Place IPDA Novice Speaker – Mercy Dahn

17th Place IPDA Novice Speaker – Nolan Ripple