Published on March 9, 2022 by Sean Flynt  
Novice Debaters 2022
Champion debaters Abi McKibben (L) and Grace Blackwell with Ryan Galloway (L) and Lee Quinn

Blackwell and McKibben defeated teams from the University of Indiana, the University of Houston, St. Mary’s College, the University of Miami, the University of West Virginia, Liberty University and James Madison University before the final round against Boston College, in competition Director of Debate Ryan Galloway described as “exhausting.”

Blackwell and McKibben also won the Front Royal Cup for the American Debate Association, presented to the first-year team with the best record in the regular season. That record included advancing to the final round of three tournaments in addition to the team’s national championship victory. Also at the national championship, votes by coaches, judges and peers from other universities honored Blackwell as Novice of the Year. She earned the regional Novice of the Year title in competition in February.

“This is the first time in the University’s history that Samford has won the ADA novice national championship, the gold standard for college novice debate in the United States,” Galloway said. “Abi and Grace have been phenomenal all season long, and their performance is truly one that will stand the test of time.”

Assistant director Lee Quinn said the victory is also noteworthy for a female team in a male-dominated activity. He praised Blackwell’s and McKibben’s dedication to the work while their peers were getting some relief from their studies during Samford’s spring break. “Abi and Grace were busy winning a national championship in one of the most intellectually intense activities one can compete in,” Quinn said.  “Their victory is a testament to literally hundreds of hours of hard work and effort, of setting a goal and working exceptionally hard to achieve it.”

These latest honors for Samford’s debate program follow close on its success at District 6 regional competition in late February. Sawyer Emerson was named Varsity Debater of the Year there in another first for the program, and two Samford teams qualified for the upcoming National Debate Tournament.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.