UO debate team sweeps first place in national tourney

The team's performance postions the UO for a strong finish as the debate season nears its end.

UO seniors and Clark Honors College students Sean McKean and Alyson Escalante blazed through 17 undefeated rounds to a first-place finish in the recent Mile High Swing invitational debate tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The two-student team was among the more than 90 collegiate teams participating in the event. The duo took victory on the resolution that “The United States federal government should require all federal election campaigns be publicly financed.”

When McKean and Escalante first started debating together in 2015, they never imagined that a year later they would be among the top-ranked collegiate debaters in the nation.

“We didn’t see this one coming, but we’re thrilled to be able to bring this win back to the University of Oregon,” McKean said. “It’s an honor and we’re feeling pretty good right now”.

“Debate is intellectually stimulating; it forces you to do research and be exposed to a lot of ideas you might not otherwise explore. And the travel, that’s fun too,” Escalante said when asked what she liked most about participating in debate through the UO Forensics Program.

The parliamentary debate style used by the team requires an ability to clearly see all sides of an argument and think on one’s feet, as well as the confidence to effectively ad-lib when necessary.

“Imagine starting with a new resolution every round and getting 20 minutes to prepare arguments,” said team coach and Director of Forensics Trond Jacobsen. “Sometimes you have to wing it. It takes guts and smarts to be a champion.”

The Mile High Swing is among one of the largest national tournaments of the year, setting the stage for the national collegiate finals coming up in March. The UO emerged as one of the elite teams at the tournament, with McKean and Escalante placing first in teams, and Escalante finishing as top speaker.

“This level of success at the Mile High promises that the UO will likely emerge as a strong contender as the season moves toward its conclusion and crowns a national champion,” said Michael K. Middleton, assistant professor of argumentation and public discourse, director of the John R. Park Debate Society and president of the National Parliamentary Debate Association.