Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2009-11-10

Three tiers of Samford University debaters made impressive showings at the Liberty University debate tournament in Lynchburg, Va., Nov. 6-8.

Varsity debaters Logan Gramzinski and Dan Bagwell, the #1 seed at the tournament, went undefeated in preliminary rounds before falling to a top-25 team from Vanderbilt University in the quarter-final round.

Bagwell was named fifth place speaker and Gramzinski sixth place speaker out of 160 individual debaters at the tournament.

The pair, now ranked 21st in the national coaches’ poll, is now a “legitimate powerhouse,” says Samford debate coach Abi Williams. “They have secured their spot as one of the most feared debate duos in the nation.”

A second Samford varsity team of Jayme Cloninger and Robert Elliott won three preliminary rounds before being eliminated from competition.

Junior varsity debaters Michelle McCorkle and Ben Jones won two preliminary rounds at their first tournament as a team. McCorkle, who was making her collegiate debate debut, was named sixth best speaker in her division.

Novice team members Janae Steele and Connor Penwell, also in their first tournament, advanced to the Sweet 16 before losing to a Vanderbilt team in the octo-final round.

The showing by the junior varsity and novice teams in their inaugural debate outings is “a pretty amazing accomplishment,” says Williams. “Most teams would be happy just to win one round their first time out.”


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. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 66th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 104th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,683 students from 47 states and 19 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 3rd nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.