The Tulane University Debate Team closed out its intercollegiate season with a trip to the NPDA National Championships at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. The three-day event featured 128 of the best teams from across the country, including three partnerships from Tulane. The Green Wave was represented by Claire Kueffner & Madison Sullivan, Christopher Hoffler & Matthew Weber, and Ren Allen & Jeremy Evans.
All three teams opened their Nationals campaign with a first-round win, including Hoffler & Weber defeating the 15th ranked pair in the country, a squad from the University of Nevada. Weber was awarded a perfect score of 30 in the round. Kueffner & Sullivan, meanwhile, went on to open the tournament 3-0 through the first three contests. And despite starting the tournament 1-4 through five rounds, first-year debaters Allen & Evans stormed back for three straight wins on Sunday to close their tournament at .500, with a 4-4 record.
Late Sunday, focus for the team centered around Kueffner & Sullivan, who had earned a 4-3 record heading into round 8, making it a true “bubble” round. If the won, they would break and if not, not. After an intense Opp round against Point Loma Nazarene, Claire & Madison emerged victorious and clinched the 24th seed in the break of 47 teams who earned a 5-3 record or better and a trip to partial triple-octofinals.
Their triple-octo was an Opp matchup with one of the host teams from Lewis & Clark, which they carried on a 2-1 decision. This advanced them to the last round of the night, a Gov debate against a Texas Tech team ranked 9th after preliminary competition and 8th overall in the seasonal rankings.
The round was fast and intense, featuring a moving PMC from Kueffner, intense refutation from Sullivan in MGC, and a brilliant Kueffner PMR that Coach Storey Clayton described as the best speech he’s ever seen from a Tulane debater. However, the Texas Tech team responded with three excellent speeches of their own and advanced on a 2-1 decision. The round was a true showcase from all four speakers of what debate can be.
The break was the third straight at NPDA Nationals for Tulane, who reached triple-octofinals in 2016 and quarterfinals for a team including Kueffner last year. This makes Tulane one of just 14 programs that have reached the elimination rounds in 2016, 2017, and 2018, alongside Concordia, El Camino, Lewis & Clark, Mercer, Nevada, Oregon, Pacific, Rice, Texas Tech, Utah, Washburn, Western Washington, and William Jewell. Of those programs, just eight, including Tulane, have been in the double-octofinal round each of the last two years (along with Concordia, Lewis & Clark, Oregon, Pacific, Texas Tech, Washburn, and Western Washington). This is some incredibly elite company for Tulane’s 8-year-old program to be keeping pace with.
Additionally, the team as a whole, across all three partnerships, went .500, finishing with a 12-12 record in preliminary rounds and a 1-1 record in outs. Complete results of the tournament can be found here.
Here are the awards Tulane earned at NPDA Nationals:
Tulane University: 20th Sweepstakes
Claire Kueffner & Madison Sullivan: 23rd Team
Claire Kueffner: 23rd Speaker
The future looks bright for Tulane as just one senior is graduating from a team which also carries no juniors, meaning nearly the entire squad should return for the next two years. Meanwhile, senior Claire Kueffner is graduating as the most decorated debater in Tulane’s team history, having won four elimination rounds at Nationals and four regular season tournaments, alongside a host of speaker awards. She is planning to attend law school next fall.