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Speech and Debate Has Historic Appearance at National Tournament

Emma Patterson and Robert Duncan Louisville Speech and Debate 2020 by the Leopard Carving

“Statistically Ridiculous” – Emma Patterson and Robert Duncan rank 3rd and 4th in the Nation respectively, Duncan also 5th in secondary category.

2020 National Tournament Goes Virtual Due to COVID-19

It was understood in the speech and debate community that the 2020 National Tournament would already be one to remember. Instead of students from across the nation, and even across the globe, migrating to Albuquerque, New Mexico this past week of June 15-20, roughly 6,000 students sat behind computer screens and logged into 9,000 zoom rooms due to Covid-19. Instead of in-person competition and wandering buildings to find the correct room number, students now had to be concerned about their webcams, mics, and their Wi-Fi holding out to ensure their success.

Louisville Well-Represented with 4 Students Competing 

Amongst this unique virtual experience, Louisville had already accomplished a unique milestone, qualifying 4 students to this top-tier competition. After weeks of virtual practices with coaches and students from around the district, the speech and debate team came to find that was not the only thing they would be celebrating.

First, Juniors Gavin Millard and David Fraizer, alongside 3 other district students, competed in World Schools debate. Debating topics such as the Green New Deal and adult children’s obligation to support elderly parents, they earned a very respectable 3-3 record, especially considering an early matchup with the inevitable national champions from Texas.

Duncan Takes 5th in “Big Questions Debate”

That was great. But it soon got greater.

Senior Robert Duncan was competing solo in “Big Questions Debate,” arguing both sides of the thought that “Objective Morality Exists.” Duncan was the only student from a field of 60+ to go undefeated in preliminary competition with a 6-0 record, setting him up as the top seed in the elimination bracket. After wins in several more rounds, Duncan took a controversial loss in quarterfinals, but allowed him to celebrate the title of 5th IN THE NATION in Big Questions Debate. Finishing in the top 6 at nationals puts him in the top 1/10th of the top 1% of competitors nationwide, an absolute historic finish to add to LHS Speech and Debate team history.

Patterson & Duncan Finish 3rd & 4th in the Nation for Extemporaneous Debate

But somehow… the “greater” became the greatest.

With Duncan finishing in his category on that day of competition, it serendipitously allowed him access to join senior Emma Patterson in the Extemporaneous Debate competition. Although competing individually, the students were able to share in this final experience that would inevitably be their last rounds as high school debaters. And although not a category they regularly compete in (only 3 rounds ever of experience for Duncan, brand new to Patterson), their debate abilities amassed over four years of competition gave them a solid foundation from which to transfer their skills to this format.

This “double and out” category is especially interesting. In contrast to the students’ normal competition categories, Duncan and Patterson would have no knowledge of their debate topics until 30 minutes before their debate matchup.

The students battled through 4 competitive preliminary rounds, with their coach’s hope they would at least have the chance to boast that they “broke” into elimination rounds at nationals. They did. Patterson with a 4-0 record, and Duncan close behind with 3-1.

The students fell into what would be a three-day cycle of receiving a topic, prepping, debating, and then repetitiously pounding the refresh button on their browser to see posted results. Round after round… they both just kept winning.

With every round, the huge pack 456 students that started in that category just kept dropping and dropping, but somehow both Patterson and Duncan kept coming out on top.

Having only 30 minutes to prepare cases for topics spanning the regulations for wearing face masks, mail-in voting procedures, G-20 policies, Israeli/Palestine relations and library censorship to name a few, the students were on a roller coaster of success. With every round’s wins, the statistics that would support 2 students from the same small school in Ohio still being alive in competition, was more and more incredible.

Patterson took a loss in round 6, setting up both students with a 3-1 record, a precarious place to be. But while 452 students fell from competition, Patterson and Duncan pressed on to be a part of the top 38…. then top 21… then top 12… then they went to bed on day 2 of the competition taking up TWO of the only EIGHT spots left in competition.

The third day came and they did the unimaginable. They both won again. After 12 rounds of intense competition, they were 2 of the final 4 left standing from the original 456 competitors. They both moved on to the semi-finals. LOUISVILLE WAS 50% of the TOP 4 kids in the NATION.

After they both performed strong in their round, splitting their 5-judge panels, our Leopards, Emma and Robert, were recognized as THIRD AND FOURTH IN THE NATION.

Statistically Ridiculous

“What Emma and Robert accomplished at Nationals was not only incredible and exciting… it’s statistically ridiculous. To think that TWO Louisville students both proceeded to get win after win and to be named 2 of the top 4 in the nation is UNFATHOMABLE. To have one student soar to the top 0.88% of the field would have been historic, to have 2 do so simultaneously, it’s just incredible.”

– Katy Russell, Head Coach Louisville Speech & Debate

Patterson and Duncan were celebrated at the livestream awards assembly cast worldwide to the speech and debate community and beyond. Louisville was given recognition amongst the most celebrated programs in the world with THREE top 6 finishes.

Congratulations to our four incredible national qualifiers for representing Louisville at the pinnacle of competition! We could not be prouder of what you’ve accomplished and the new bar you’ve set for the future of our program.

-Submitted By Katy Russell, Head Coach Louisville Speech & Debate

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