TX Tech debate team takes national championship

Seniors Kristen Owen of Houston and Anthony Putnicki of El Paso emerged out of a field of 234 teams from 87 schools to win the Mark A. Hatfield trophy, awarded to the winner of the National Parliamentary Debate Association's (NPDA) national championship tournament. The tournament was held March 27-30 at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

As a whole, Texas Tech was named the seventh-placed school at the competition. The NPDA tournament concludes the season for the Texas Tech Debate Team.

Joe Gantt, director of forensics and head coach of the Texas Tech debate team, said he was proud his debating duo pulled off the win after a year of hard work and training.

"Kristen and Anthony are two of the most talented and devoted debaters I have ever known," Gantt said. "They have been working toward this goal for four years; they came so close last year by losing in the semifinals, but I knew they would come back strong this year. I am incredibly proud of them, proud of my entire team, my coaches, and I am proud for Texas Tech."

The NPDA championship tournament is the largest intercollegiate debate tournament held each academic year. The three-day competition requires teams to debate 14 times in order to win the championship. Adding to the challenge, students receive a new topic for every debate, and have only 25 minutes to prepare arguments to debate either for or against that topic.

Teams debated issues ranging from Chinese influence in Africa and the possible resurgence of a Russian-U.S. Cold War to restrictions on gun ownership and expansions of family and medical leave.

Owen and Putnicki blazed their way to a 7-1 preliminary round record, defeating teams from Louisiana State University, San Diego State University and Northern Arizona University.

In elimination rounds, Owen and Putnicki met their stiffest challenge in the semifinals -- a team from Southern Illinois University. While Texas Tech had entered the tournament as the top-ranked team of the regular season, Southern Illinois had been undefeated in their previous 22 debates and had handed Owen and Putnicki their only loss in preliminary rounds.

Southern Illinois debaters were considered Texas Tech's top rival for the championship this year. After a close, intense debate, Owen and Putnicki defeated SIU on a 4-3 decision by the judges.

The win over Southern Illinois set up a final round between Owen and Putnicki and a team from the University of Oregon. Texas Tech affirmed the topic "America needs a presidential unity ticket" by defending a Democratic presidential ticket of Obama/Clinton. After another intense debate watched by more than 500 people, Texas Tech was named champion by a 6-3 decision by the judges.

Other Texas Tech teams had strong performances as well. Juniors Jeremy Henderson of Portland, Ore., and Mike Mitchell of Lamesa finished 33rd in the 234 team field, while sophomores Nicole Brown and Brian Horton, both of San Angelo, placed 65th.

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