The Covenant College Speech and Debate Society took home the silver medal early this month after arguing against top-tier debate teams at American Enterprise Institute’s Parliamentary Debate tournament.
Ten Covenant debaters, led by alum Stephen McKerihan ‘16, traveled to the February 3-4 tournament at Colorado Christian University in Denver to compete against teams from all over the country. The students debated education reform, trade tariffs, and international crisis among a number of other topics.
Seniors Mackenzie Harmon and John Christian Kuehnert teamed up for the varsity tourney, as did junior Wes Wright and sophomore Tindol Pate. Both Harmon/Kuehnert and Wright/Pate advanced past preliminaries to quarterfinals. Novice team Sara Kemeny & Bethany Sikkink — a first-time debater — advanced to semifinals. Covenant students Kuehnert and Paige Hungar won speaking awards at the event despite heavy competition from teams such as Pepperdine, Grove City, and Brooklyn College. Covenant won second place overall.
Covenant competed against several rigorous debate teams, many of whom are led by full-time coaches and offer scholarships to members of their debate teams. Each round is a rigorous challenge in and of itself. Debaters are assigned with arguing for or against a new topic every round—with only fifteen minutes to prepare your case.
Sophomore Wes Wright said that being assigned a position you don’t necessarily agree with is a healthy challenge. “It forces you to articulate, defend, and fully support a position on an issue that you may completely disagree with,” he said. “It has helped me grown in my understanding of why some people believe so differently than myself, and it helps me better understand my opinion as well.”
Topics at the Denver tournament were primarily drawn from current issues, with many centering around the new presidency and recent executive orders. Covenant’s team dedicated their fifteen minutes of prep time each round to internet research on the specific topic. Round preparation is a time when teammates constantly communicate and bounce ideas off of each other, share statistics, and build their case together. While the goal of each round is to win, students also benefitted from becoming better speakers, learning how to construct arguments, and learning more about current events.
Debaters say that there are few things as terrifying as entering a debate round unsure of what you or your opponent are going to say. But assistant coach Katie Mullaney says that healthy fear in a debate tournament isn’t all bad. “Students are developing critical thinking skills, paying attention to what is happening in the world, and learning to see both sides of an issue. Tournaments add competition to the mix, which gives students another layer of motivation and provides an extra element of fun to what we’re doing. Students have the chance to meet fellow students from other colleges and learn from them.”