Published on January 25, 2024 by Ryan Galloway  
2023 2024 Debate Group Photo

Samford Debate took first and second place at the University of Indiana tournament on Jan. 20-22, where twenty-three of the nation’s top universities competed. The team of junior Sarah Chew and freshman Laurel Pack took first place, going undefeated and beating teams from the University of Georgia, Missouri State, Wayne State and the University of Michigan en route to their victory.  Chew won first speaker and Pack won second speaker.

The team of junior Mary Grace Hammond and senior Madison Hackett came in second, also going undefeated at the tournament.  Hackett won third speaker and Hammond won fourth speaker.

“The teamwork these four young women showed was the secret to our success,” said executive Director of Debate Ryan Galloway.  “They are probably the most cohesive unit I’ve ever seen, creating a spreadsheet of advanced scouting on their opponents, doing high-quality research and coordinating feedback from coaches and judges.  They operate more like a family than a debate team.”

Senior Joey Tarnowski and junior TJ Riggs competed in the varsity division of the tournament, defeating Missouri State, the University of Oklahoma, the University of Houston, Michigan State University, and the University of Kentucky en route to the sweet sixteen of the tournament. 

Grace Scott competed with a debater from the University of Michigan in the varsity division, defeating teams from the University of Iowa, the University of Georgia, and Michigan State University.  One of the University of Iowa debaters was previously invited to attend the Kentucky Round Robin, reserved for the best seven Varsity teams in the United States, making this an especially important win.

Senior Grace Blackwell and sophomore Ella Ford teamed for the first together and competed in the varsity division, defeating Baylor and the University of Michigan.

Director of Debate Lee Quinn credited the team’s resilience in the face of adversity, “As many know, Brooks Hall flooded the week before the tournament, which flooded the debate squad room on the week of this important tournament.  The students had to scramble to salvage their technology, debate notes, and supplies while preparing for the tournament.  Practice debates and speeches were moved online in an ad hoc manner.  But our students survived and thrived.  Life will throw curveballs at you from time to time, but the best stay strong even in the face of adverse circumstances.”

The students’ exceptional performance has boosted the team to fourth place in the American Debate Association rankings.  “This is tied for the highest the university has ever been ranked in my eighteen years of managing the program,” executive director of debate Ryan Galloway noted.  “We have a very special and talented squad of hard-working, persuasive, and dedicated students,” he added.

The team will compete at the University of Texas tournament in a week and a half and then begin preparation for the national championship tournaments at the end of the season.    

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.