Pace Debate Ranked Number One in Country

debate article

Seniors Tanner Lewis and Jeri Brand show off their new hardware that they won at the MBA tournament. Photo: Shuntá Jordan

The time is finally here. The Pace Debate Team is at the pinnacle of its activity, and the team is not done yet. This elite squad is led by a group of incredibly strong seniors who have been capitalizing on their expertise all four years of high school, and in some cases, even since middle school.

“In the initial coaches poll in October, [seniors] Tanner Lewis and Clyde Shepherd were ranked eighth,” said debate coach Ms. Shuntá Jordan. “They moved up to third in the November poll. After consecutive head-to-head victories against the then #1 and #2 teams in the country, and back-to-back tournament wins, coaches voted them #1.”

Ms. Jordan has been at Pace since 2003, and loves this year’s team because it is “so close as a squad.” She also loves seeing the kids “come into their own” from little freshmen, knowing little to nothing about debate, to high performing juniors and seniors. Not only has their knowledge and skill set increased, but so has the bond between the teammates and the coach which has resulted in a very cohesive and adroit debate team.

Because of the strength of this well-rounded team, they have brought home quite a few mementos from tournaments this year. The most notable tournaments so far include: University of Michigan, Glenbrooks and MBA (Montgomery Bell Academy). The dynamic duo of Clyde and Tanner took first place in the University of Michigan and Glenbrooks tournaments. This same feat was accomplished at MBA, which is one of the most competitive debate tournaments that high schoolers can compete in. At MBA, Tanner and senior Jeri Brand won first place with their superior debate skills and hours of research, handily defeating other skilled, ambitious teams.

According to Ms. Jordan, the team has won three consecutive “octafinals” tournaments. At these national tournaments, students may earn bids to the University of Kentucky’s National Tournament of Champions, which is the final national championship in April, by reaching the final 16 or better in each tournament finish.

Though winning seems to be a common theme for this debate team, these debaters know that great success does not come without practice. The team practices after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays for roughly two hours, with most of the work accomplished outside the classroom. Typically, students dedicate an additional 20-30 hours a week towards debate, including tournaments, research and other mock debates.

Clearly, the work ethic of these hard working students is unmatched, but their love for debate and dedication to practice is what helps make them successful. But while the students work hard, Coach Jordan also puts in more than her fair share of work behind the scenes. “I like how she works hard; it pushes us to work harder,” said junior Reid Funston.