Published on November 30, 2023 by Diamond Nunnally  
Debate ranked 5th

Samford’s championship-winning debate team continues to dominate for the second year in a row. After a successful fall season, the team is ranked 5th in the nation by the American Debate Association. 

“This is the highest ranking for a fall semester in my eighteen years at the university,” executive director of debate Ryan Galloway said. “It shows the depth of the squad in all three divisions and that the present and future of Samford debate is incredibly strong.” 

Junior varsity debater Laurel Pack said, “I think a lot of the team's success comes from the work all the squad does outside of tournaments. Oftentimes, a round is won before it even begins, not through skill or talent, but through preparation. Fortunately, every member of the Samford debate team puts in many hours of their life to ensure everyone on the team can succeed.”  

Sarah Chew and Laurel PackIn the season opener at Northwestern University on Sept. 16-19, junior Sarah Chew and freshman Laurel Pack finished in the Elite Eight of Junior Varsity, defeating teams from CSU Long Beach, Missouri State, the University of Houston, Emory University and the University of Indiana. Pack was named third speaker and Chew was named fourth speaker.  

“In a tournament, every round starts from scratch, which is encouraging and challenging,” Chew said. “It takes a lot of mental focus, persistence and drive to make it all the way to the end and treat every round like it’s the only one.” 

Chew and Pack continued to make their team proud at the University of Kentucky tournament held Sept. 30-Oct. 2. The duo placed second again in the Junior Varsity division, defeating teams from the University of Texas San Antonio, Wake Forest University, the Naval Academy, Wayne State University, the University of Minnesota and George Mason University. Chew won second speaker, while Pack won seventh speaker. Joey Tarnowski and Ella Ford competed in the Varsity division, scoring a win against Harvard.  

Junior Varsity also shined at the Mukai tournament held by Weber State and Mary Washington University on Oct. 13-15. Mary Grace Hammond and Madison Hackett took second place, defeating Cornell, the University of Georgia and the Naval Academy. Hammond won third speaker and Hackett fourth speaker at the tournament. 

“As the team progresses into the elimination rounds, it's always inspiring to see how the entire team pitches in for coaching and research,” Pack said. “This kind of teamwork is at the core of debate, and I think that's something Samford excels at. Everyone's contributions matter.” 

As junior varsity remained strong, bringing in consecutive second-place wins, the varsity team came out on top and placed first at the George Ziegemueller Invitational held by Wayne State University on Oct. 22-25. TJ Riggs and Tarnowski defeated Michigan State University, Emory University, Northwestern University, Oakton Community College, the University of Illinois, Wayne State University and Gonzaga University. Riggs won top speaker while Tarnowski placed third.  

“This success shows the team can beat the best teams in the country,” Galloway said. "This is the fourth tournament in five weeks where Samford Debate has taken either first or second place at tournaments held throughout the United States.” 

The team’s unprecedented winning streak only continued as the weeks went on. Chew and Pack placed second yet again at the Harvard University tournament on Oct. 28-30, defeating George Mason University, Liberty University and the University of Indiana. Chew was named fifth speaker and Pack was named fourth speaker.  

The last and final tournament of the season at Wake Forest University on Nov. 11-13 solidified Samford as one of the top ten teams in the country. Sophomore Ella Ford and junior Abby Montgomery won first and second speaker in the Junior Varsity division and finished in the final four, taking third place. They defeated teams from Boston College, Liberty, Georgia State and the University of Houston.  

“We have a lot of talent on our squad this year,” Chew said. “We support each other and work well as a team, which is the most important thing in debate. I know my own goals are to keep practicing just as hard in the new year and dive more into the research process.” 

“The plan for the rest of the year is to keep researching and stay dedicated to the team's success as a whole,” Pack said. “I think Samford Debate is a wonderful case study of how hard work and teamwork can go a long way.” 

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.