During Homecoming and Family Weekend, HWS celebrated the success of the 1961 GE College Bowl team, which went undefeated and won the national title, changing the academic reputation of the Colleges. Today, the Colleges have another team which has been excelling in the intercollegiate academic circuit, the top ranked HWS Debate Team, recently composed of seniors Gerald “Buzz” Klinger ’12 and William McConnell ’12.
During two weekends in October, Klinger and McConnell competed at two of the most prestigious open tournaments in North America — at the University of Toronto and at Yale University. At these tournaments, they outperformed all other HWS teams in the history of the program going deep into elimination rounds at both tournaments.
Team coach and adviser Eric Barnes, assistant professor of philosophy, explains that “It’s hard to explain to most people, but this is just a jaw-dropping accomplishment. In the past two weekends, Buzz and Will have done a tremendous amount for the reputation of the HWS Debating Team. Because of their success at this highest level, people outside the Northeast are really taking note of our team’s debating prowess. I am very proud of them.”
In Toronto, Klinger and McConnell did very well in the five preliminary debates and were ranked 12th going into the quarter-final debate. There, they defeated teams from Colgate and Alaska, and found themselves in a tough semi-final debate with three of the best teams in Canada. They defeated one of these teams and narrowly missed qualifying for finals, even though many in the audience thought that they had prevailed. In the end, HWS placed in the top 8 of North American teams.
At Yale, the HWS Debate Team competed against more than 160 teams and once again had an outstanding performance. The field of competitors included many graduate students who have been debating internationally for years and only 10 percent of teams could qualify for the elimination rounds. Nevertheless, HWS performed phenomenally. Klinger and McConnell defeated 12 of the 15 teams in the preliminary rounds and entered the elimination rounds ranked 8th overall. In the quarter-final round, they defeated Colgate’s top team as well as the current Canadian National Champions from Toronto. In the semifinal round, HWS ended up directly against the No. 1 ranked debater in the entire world from the 2010 World Championships. Despite a strong performance, HWS did not advance to the final round.
Even more impressive, however, was the individual award Klinger earned as the fourth overall debater for the entire tournament, outperforming more than 300 debaters. The only individuals ranking above him were: the 2010 top debater in the world, a finalist from the 2011 world championships, as well as an internationally-renowned debater who is a graduate student at Stanford.