Bulldog debaters arguably the best

The Yale Debate Assocation is basking in its success after pulverizing the competition this weekend at the national debate championship in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

In a record-setting performance, Yale debaters won the tournament, and the team swept the top season-performance awards: Team of the Year, Speaker of the Year and Novice of the Year. Seventy-one teams teams of two participated in the tournament, which took place from Friday to Sunday at Vassar College.

Dylan Gadek ’07, left, and David Denton ’07 pose with a debate trophy after their victory at the national debate championships.
Ed Stein
Dylan Gadek ’07, left, and David Denton ’07 pose with a debate trophy after their victory at the national debate championships.

While Princeton University swept the season-performance awards in 1998, Yale is the first team to have had the national champions and the top speaker at the championship in the same year that it swept the seasonal awards.

Dylan Gadek ’07, who along with teammate David Denton ’07 was named national champion after they defeated a Princeton team in the final round, said he still could not come to grips with his victory.

“I’m still on cloud nine,” Gadek said. “I’m really ecstatic … It was just an amazing feeling, a feeling of validation in one moment.”

Denton and Gadek both said they had not expected beforehand to have such success at the competition.

“We were one of the better teams there, but it was hard to say [who would win] because with each elimination round you don’t know how things will turn out,” Denton said. “Sometimes, decisions surprise you.”

Denton and Gadek said this weekend’s string of prizes were a great reward for the graduating seniors.

“It’s really nice because Dylan and I won the tournament, the other two seniors on the team were the ones that won the Team of the Year award, and one of the two also won Speaker of the Year,” Denton said. “It’s great for the seniors as a class because everyone got to win something.”

Adam Chilton ’07 and Matthew Wansley ’07 won the Team of the Year Award, and Chilton was both the Speaker of the Year and the top speaker at the national championship tournament. Grant May ’10 was named Novice of the Year.

Yale also had the top all-female team at the national championship in Rosa Po ’08 and Ashali Singham ’08, who were eliminated in octofinals.

The national championship was conducted slightly differently this year than in the past, Denton said. While the tournament in past years was run by students at the host school who did not participate in the competition, he said, this year’s competition was directed by four top former debaters, including former Yale Debate Association President Andrew Korn ’05.

The Yale debaters’ national championship success follows similar victories over the course of the season, including wins at international tournaments at Oxford, Cambridge and the University of Toronto, as well as the North American Championship this past January.

Wansley said this year’s success can be attributed to strong teamwork and effort by all members of the team.

“A lot of teams on circuit tend to be divided by internal competition but we focused on working together as a school,” Wansley said. “Adam and I lost the quarter-finals [at Nationals] but were ecstatic that the others won … There’s a lot of cohesion [in the team] and the four of us really get along well.”

The topic in Denton and Gadek’s final round was, “College students should be vegetarians.”

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