Business junior Ellis Allen and LSA junior Alex Pappas took home the second place title at the 2014 National Debate Tournament on March 31 at Indiana University.

Allen and Pappas defeated Harvard University in the semifinals and narrowly lost to Georgetown University in the final round, earning the University second place for the first time since 1991.

Aaron Kall, who has served as director of the debate team since 2010, said Pappas and Allen’s time commitment and efficiency are what allowed them to come this far.

“Work ethic is something that’s very important and our debaters spend a lot of time researching the topic and spending time practicing so I think that’s something that really sets us apart,” Kall said.

Kall said the most dedicated debaters spend 20 to 40 hours each week preparing for debate, while also maintaining high grades as full-time students. The average GPA of the debate team was about 3.75 last semester.

Pappas said the team’s willingness to work hard and the vast resources the University has to offer were also important in the team’s success.

“I really think the resources of Michigan are sort of what allows us to excel,” he said. “I think my partner and I have just invested so much time and that we’re pretty darn good at it.”

Allen added that the team’s success could also be attributed to the initiative of the students on the team.

“I think it’s one of the more student-driven ones,” he said. “There are a lot of teams out there who have phenomenal coaching staffs but everything, all the work we put out is student-motivated here and that also gives us a lot of creative control over what we do.”

Both Allen and Pappas agreed that success at debate is based on the amount of work you put in, beginning early in the year and continuing throughout.

“I think its just preparation, preparation, preparation,” Pappas said. “It can be a single piece of evidence that’s the difference between winning and losing.”

The University has participated in the National Debate Tournament since 1971, winning second place three times, but has never taken home the championship. Nevertheless, Kall is optimistic about next year, given that Pappas and Allen will have the opportunity to build off their success going into their senior season.

“They’ve got a great chance, probably as good a chance as anyone next year to win the national title, to win that final debate, and so we’re really looking forward to next year as well,” Kall said.

Pappas and Allen both said they hope to win the National Debate Championship next year and win the Copeland Award, an award for the top-ranked national team of the year.

“We kind of hope for this great end of the season,” Kall said. “But close defeat just motivates our students to work harder, to spend more time practicing, more time on research, and to kind of get them motivated to just take it to that very next and final level next year to win the national championship.”

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