Out of the 197 schools that competed in parliamentary debate, William Jewell College ended the season ranked as the second best in the nation by the National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA), the best performance ever for the college. Jewell competes against schools of all sizes and divisions, finishing above institutions such as the University of California-Berkeley, the University of Oregon and Notre Dame.
The announcement came after Jewell had strong performances at two national competitions. The first competition, the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence March 18-20 at the University of Nevada-Reno, selected only 56 teams in the nation to compete. Both Jewell teams finished in the Top 10 in the nation with Kyle Mellon (senior; Norman, Okla.) and Matt Reisener (senior; Indianola, Iowa) placing 5th and Stephen Ahal (sophomore; Chesterfield) and Rosemary Loehr (junior; Kansas City, Mo.) placing 10th. This was Jewell’s best finish in six years and Ahal and Loehr were the most improved team in the nation.
The debaters were also recognized for their individual success with Reisener being named the 9th best speaker, Mellon was 11th best, and Loehr was 18th best in the nation. Director of Debate Kevin Garner was selected to judge the Championship Round, an honor for only seven coaches in the nation.
At the NPDA national championship tournament March 23-25 at the University of Pacific, 154 teams competed, and all three Jewell teams competing advanced to elimination rounds. Mellon and Reisener finished in the top 16 in the nation, Ahal and Loehr finished in the top 32, and Jess Gehrig (first year; Liberty, Mo.) and Mia Richardson (first year; Kansas City, Kan.) finished in the top 40.
The debaters and coaches continued to find individual success as well. Mellon was named the 4th best speaker in the nation. Reisener was named an Academic All-American for his success in debate, school and community service; a competitive and selective honor. Garner was elected to serve as the Faculty Representative of District 6 and Tyler White (senior; Independence, Mo.) was elected as Student Representative; the two will represent schools from Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota. Kyle Dennis, assistant debate coach, was selected to judge the Championship Round, an honor for only nine coaches in the nation. Dr. Gina Lane, chair of the department of communication and theatre, served as the National Tournament Director, being the first woman to hold that position.
“While I knew this was going to be a good year, I could never have imagined the extent of the success,” said Garner, who is in his first year as director of the program, “To be the second best school in the nation is only possible by having a depth of student talent, from first years to seniors, and with the institutional support that the college continues to provide. The hard work and dedication of each of our debaters and Kyle continue to put us on the map as one of the best debate schools in the entire country. We have a strong returning class and what looks like a top-tier recruiting class, so I am excited about our future.”
Three Jewell debaters will be graduating: Mellon, Reisener, and Heather Swadley (senior; Norman, Okla.). “It is always bittersweet when debaters graduate, but especially this year. These students are the first full set of students I worked with from start to finish after coming back to Jewell and the first class as serving as Director. I know the skills they learned in debate will help continue their success after graduation,” said Garner.