MACON – Mercer University's debate team won its second straight Georgia Parliamentary Debate Association (GPDA) state championship in dominant fashion Feb. 26-28 at the University of North Georgia.
The victory marked back-to-back years in which Mercer's winning duo did not lose a single round and the tournament's top-two individuals were Bears.
This year, sophomores Jaz Buckley and Kyle Bligen finished first as a team. Buckley was named first-place speaker, and Bligen was named second-place speaker.
“It is a great honor to win state for two consecutive years,” said Dr. Vasile Stanescu, director of debate. “However, this honor does not belong to us alone but to everyone who has made it possible. The success of Mercer debate is just the visible tip of the iceberg of a Mercer family that pulls together to support one another and our talented students. What this victory ultimately means is that Mercer is an institution that prioritizes academics, supports students and achieves competitive success. I, and the entire team, could not be more grateful for everyone who believed in us.”
Additionally, the tandem of junior Desirrae Jones and freshman Cassie Malcolm reached the semifinal round, while sophomore Daniel Alvarez and freshman Keanu Lowo reached the quarterfinals.
Mercer will move on to the 20th annual National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA) National Championship Tournament at California State University, Long Beach, on March 18-21.
Buckley will be defending the James “Al” Johnson Top Speaker Award at NPDA nationals, the largest debate tournament of any kind in the country. Last year, she became the first freshman and first African-American to be named top speaker at the tournament.