MACON – Mercer University’s debate team competed virtually Oct. 9-10 in the Steve Hunt Classic co-hosted by Lewis and Clark College of Oregon and Whitman College of Washington.

This past weekend marked Mercer’s first appearance in the annual tournament, which this year included 70 institutions from 26 states.

The Bears were led by juniors Ashley Summer Pemberton and Madeline Smith, who reached the finals of the junior varsity division.

Smith, a biochemistry and molecular biology (BMB) and Spanish double-major from Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, was named fifth-place speaker, and Pemberton, a journalism and media studies double-major from Macon, was sixth-place speaker.

As sophomores, Pemberton and Smith won the novice division of the National Parliamentary Debate Association championship.

“I and everyone on the team would like to thank Mercer’s debate alumni for making this tournament possible. They generously gave to support our program last year, and these funds directly helped to pay for new coaching, support new debaters and cover the cost associated with attending this tournament,” said Dr. Vasile Stanescu, associate professor of communication studies and director of debate. “Ashley and Madeline defeated Northwestern University to make it to the final round at this prestigious tournament. I am proud of them both.”

Dr. Stanescu was assisted in his coaching duties by former Mercer debaters Lindsey Warden and Dr. Cameron Kunzelman.

Mercer’s debate team will next compete Nov. 5-7 in the Paul Winters Invitational at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California.