After two consecutive first place wins at the Wake Forest University and Harvard University debate tournaments earlier this semester, LSA seniors William Morgan and Joseph Krakoff are ranked first in the country, according to the December 2015 National Debate Coaches Association poll.

If the team is able to hold on to that ranking through next semester they will be the first University team since 1997 to enter the National Debate Tournament as the first-place seed.  

The college debate season is divided into two semesters, with teams competing in at least four tournaments each semester. This semester began in late September and ended in mid-November with the Wake Forest tournament, which was the largest event with 146 teams from across the country competing.

The tournament takes place over the course of two or three days and begins with eight preliminary rounds. Next, the top 32 teams are seeded in a single elimination style bracket. The University team then had to win five elimination rounds to win the tournament. The team won their final debate on a 3-2 decision

Morgan and Krakoff have been debate partners for the past two years. Morgan views this year’s success as the culmination of their studies.

“We are pioneering a relatively new style of debate that heavily involves critical theory based argumentation, evidence that comes out of Ph.D. programs at universities and faculty working there, high level academic work,” Morgan said. “We use this in debate, which is a little bit of a departure from the norm, which is mostly policy based arguments that come from think tanks or foreign affairs.”

University Debate Director Aaron Kall said this ranking will cause many of the top teams to spend a disproportionate amount of their research and preparation time on efforts to beat Morgan and Krakoff.

“It’s nice in one regard to have that top ranking, especially of your peers and the other coaches that vote, but at the same time you know that you are going to really have some tough debates in the second semester because everyone is going to be aiming for you,” Kall said.

The second semester will include two tournaments at the University of California, Berkeley, a tournament at the University of Texas at Austin and the National Debate Championship in Binghamton, N.Y. The top 78 teams in the country qualify for the National Debate Tournament, with no more than three team entries from each school.

The University debate team has been a runner-up at the National Debate Tournament for the past two years in a row. Last year the University’s team lost in a 3-2 decision to Northwestern University. Since the University started competing in the National Debate Tournament in 1971 they have been the runner-up four times, but never have won a National title.

Krakoff said he believes that success in the the second semester will come from maintaining the same work habits that have got them to where they are today.

“We need to keep winning,” he said. “We need to keep doing new research, innovating and being new. Things went well first semester, they went better in the second half of the first semester than the first half and I attribute that to being comfortable, being practiced and being very prepared.”

“The pressure is on,” Morgan said. “But that is what you want.”

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