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Debate team in position to overtake Harvard

The Rutgers University Debate Union is just a few tournaments away from stealing Harvard University’s third-place standing in the American Parliamentary Debate Association.

RUDU is currently the APDA’s fourth-highest ranked team, followed by Harvard University in third, Brandeis University in second and Yale University in first, said Storey Clayton, RUDU’s coach.

The team expected to pass Harvard this past weekend, but wasn’t able to secure the points needed to put them in third. Clayton said he is confident that RUDU will take over their spot within the spring 2013 semester.

“We have more depth,” Clayton said. “I’m confident we’ll be able to pass them because we have more debaters that are capable of earning more points.”

APDA’s rankings are based on a point-scale system, meaning the University does not need to go head-to-head against Harvard to defeat them, said Rachel Moon, public relations chair for RUDU.

Each school’s debate team is divided into teams of two members, said Moon, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. When a pair wins four out of the five debate rounds, they will advance to breaks, which are quarterfinals, and then final rounds, she said.

Points are distributed based on the amount of teams each school has in break rounds, she said.

Ashley Novak, the debate team’s president, said she is also certain RUDU will pass Harvard’s ranking and hopes this will happen sooner rather than later.

Novak, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said she ranked as the fourth best speaker in the North American Debating Championship.

The North American Debating Championship only allows elite teams from the United States and Canada to compete in its tournaments, she said. The championship does not count toward the University’s overall ranking, but stands as a high honor for the debate team’s president.

Moon said the University is the only public institution ranked in the top 10 of the APDA.

She said she joined the debate team to improve her public speaking skills.

“I really want to help Rutgers have the best record,” she said.

The University has previously ranked third in the country, but has yet to place in second or first, Moon said.

Debate teams at Yale University and Brandeis University rank higher than RUDU, but the University’s team has defeated both teams in December’s Vassar Classic Debate Tournament, Clayton said. RUDU also ranks higher than some Ivy League schools such as Columbia University and Cornell University.

Moon said she credits most of the team’s success to Clayton.

“Storey’s a huge part of our success because he’s the one who has constantly been giving us recruitment ideas and initiatives,” Moon said. “He’s always around to give us advice and judge our practice rounds.”

Clayton said he became involved with RUDU in 2009 as a volunteer debate coach. The University officially hired him as a senior program administrator in 2011 after RUDU moved from its unranked position to 24th in the nation under his guidance.

Moon said the team ranked fifth after the 2010-2011 season and ranked ninth after the 2011-2012 season.

“We are currently fourth and [are] having the best season yet,” Moon said.

Novak said her team members and supportive coach make her feel certain that RUDU will take the third place rank away from Harvard University.

“It would be amazing to pass them because they have a lot of talented individuals and their school has a better reputation than Rutgers,” Novak said. “It would be great to show that our students are just as talented, if not more, than an Ivy League school like Harvard.”

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