KU debate pair finish second in country at national tournament

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Post updated at 10:04 a.m. Tuesday, April 9:

The University of Kansas debate duo of Graham Revare and William Soper finished second in the country in policy debate Monday at the 78th National Debate Tournament. 

The pair of seniors endured eight rounds of preliminary debate and five rounds in a final bracket. They finished the preliminary rounds 7-1 and entered the final bracket as the No. 2 seed. On their way to the final, they defeated teams from Binghamton and Emory. 

Revare and Soper lost in the finals to a team from Michigan who entered the bracket rounds as the No. 4 seed.

KU boasts one of the country’s most successful college policy debate programs, with a legacy dating back to its first intercollegiate debate win in 1885. KU boasts more national championships than any college except Harvard, Northwestern and Dartmouth. 

“Brett (Bricker, head coach) and I are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with such amazing students who are talented, hardworking, and compete with class and integrity,” said Scott Harris, the David B. Pittaway Director of the KU Debate program. “We feel so blessed to coach at a University that values its debate program, and we are thankful for the ongoing commitment of so many alumni who help provide the opportunities for our debaters to continue to excel at the highest levels of college debate.”

Contributed Graham Revare and William Soper

The team has six championships and a streak of more than 50 consecutive years qualifying for the tournament. Their most recent victory was 2018, when Quaram Robinson and Will Katz claimed the title. In 2008, now-head coach Brett Bricker and his partner Nate Johnson won the championship for KU. 

“Dr. Scott Harris and Dr. Brett Bricker have been not only the greatest coaches, in my opinion, in the activity, but have also just been incredible sources of emotional support for me, and have held me accountable throughout my time at KU,” Soper said in a speech before the final round. “And you have uplifted me and really made me a better person.” 

Debaters spent the entire season researching and debating on this resolution: “Resolved: The United States should restrict its nuclear forces in one or more of the following ways: adopting a nuclear no-first-use policy; eliminating one or more of the legs of its nuclear triad; disarming its nuclear forces.”

In the quarterfinal round, Revare and Soper were set up to face fellow Jayhawk pairing John Marshall and Jiyoon Park. In debate, two teams from the same school don’t debate; instead, the higher-seeded team advances.

Contributed John Marshall and Jiyoon Park

Marshall, a Free State High School graduate, and Serena Rupp won the national Tournament of Champions as high school seniors in 2022

Jacob Wilkus, another Free State grad, and his partner Owen Williams also qualified for the tournament, finishing 4-4 and just missing out on the bracket rounds. 

Out of more than 150 of the best debaters in the country, Revare was the tournament’s eighth place individual speaker and Soper was named ninth best speaker. Marshall finished as the 18th best speaker.

All of the six KU debaters who qualified for the prestigious tournament are from the surrounding area. Alongside the pair of Free State grads, Park attended Washburn Rural; Soper attended Blue Valley Northwest; Revare attended Shawnee Mission East; and Williams attended Truman High School in Independence, Missouri. 

Graham Revare and William Soper, seated, finished second in the country in policy debate April 8, 2024 at the National Debate Tournament. Congratulating them is Jacob Wilkus.
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Cuyler Dunn (he/him), a contributor to The Lawrence Times, is a student at the University of Kansas School of Journalism. He is a graduate of Lawrence High School where he was the editor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper, The Budget, and was named the 2022 Kansas High School Journalist of the Year. Read more of his work for the Times here.

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