Mercer Debate Team Sweeps Pair of Florida Tournaments


MACON – Mercer's debate team traveled to the Sunshine State for two tournaments hosted by Florida International University and Miami-Dade College in late November.

The team swept both tournaments, Nov. 20-22, winning the first- and second-place speaker awards at each and more than 10 total awards over the course of the weekend.

Director of Debate Dr. Vasile Stanescu called it “one of the best showings in the history of Mercer debate.”

“This is the first time that Mercer has ever won two consecutive debate tournaments, the first time we have won back-to-back first-place speaker awards, and the first time that Mercer has ever won this number of individual awards within a single weekend,” said Dr. Stanescu. “Every single member of the debate team won at least one award; several won more than one.”

At FIU's Surf n' Turf Tournament on the University's Biscayne Bay Campus, Mercer was led by sophomores Jaz Buckley and Kyle Bligen, who were the top team at the National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA)-style tournament.

Buckley, the defending NPDA national top speaker award-winner, was named top speaker of the tournament, while Bligen won the second-place individual honor.

The team of junior Dessire Jones and freshman Garret Williams reached the semifinal round, and Williams was named the fourth-place speaker.

At Miami-Dade's tournament, held the next day on FIU's Biscayne Bay Campus, sophomore Daniel Alvarez and freshman Keanu Lowo were the top team – a first for the duo – and Buckley again was named top speaker.

Freshman Cassie Malcom won the second-place individual honor, while Lowo finished fifth, Alvarez sixth and Ivan Chlok seventh.

“What impresses me the most is not the awards but the way that the students came together as a team,” said Dr. Stanescu. “Debate competitions are incredibly stressful; however, I saw that in the moments of the most stress the students turned to help one another. Mercer can be very proud of this team – not only because of the type of awards it wins – because of the type of people it represents.”

This weekend, the team is set to travel to the University of Utah for the 10th annual Mile High Swing, Jan. 8-10. This tournament is the nation's largest parliamentary debate invitational.

Kyle is senior director of media relations at Mercer. In addition to being the primary media contact for most academic and administrative units of the university, he serves as editor of the Mercerian alumni magazine and News@Mercer e-newsletters, and he coordinates hometown and university news releases.