UC Berkeley News
Press Release

UC Berkeley Press Release

Debate team wins national championships

– A University of California, Berkeley, debate team took home top honors in two national championships in recent weeks, becoming only the second team in the history of college debating to be a finalist in both competitions.

 Stacey Nathan & Craig Wickersham
Stacey Nathan and Craig Wickersham with their trophy from the National Debate Tournament. (Allan Louden photo)

Senior Stacey Nathan and junior Craig Wickersham took first place in the Cross Examination Debate Association National Championship Tournament on March 22 after beating Harvard University in the semi-finals and Dartmouth University in the finals. There were 180 teams competing in the tournament.

Less than a week later, on March 28, Nathan and Wickersham took second place at the National Debate Tournament. Northwestern University won that tournament.

"Stacey and Craig have been our top team all year long," said Policy Debate Team co-coach Greg Achten said. "This is the first year they've debated together, but they've been successful before. They really came together and worked really hard at the end of the year."

The UC Berkeley squad, led by coaches Dave Arnett and Achten, also won the CEDA National Sweepstakes Award for having the most success over an entire season.

In college debating, all the teams are given a topic in August that is debated throughout the season. At debates, teams give four preliminary debates to promote the given argument and four preliminary debates to negate it. This year, the argument was: "The United States should adopt an energy policy reducing consumption of fossil fuels."

The main issues the UC Berkeley team focused on were global warming and the American dependence on oil, Achten said. But it was a team effort - with squad members staying up all night to help Nathan and Wickersham prepare - that led to the win.

"Stacey is widely regarded as one of the top debate speakers in America," Achten said. "She has an air of confidence - she knows what she's doing, and she's able to communicate that. She's very authoritative, and she's very convincing."

Nathan, an Illinois native who plans to attend the University of Chicago Law School, said she first got into debate as a high school freshman, taking debate as an elective.

"It's been a great ride, but for the most part, this is the end for me," she said, looking ahead to law school. Nathan, who coached an Oakland high school debate team during her sophomore and junior years, said she plans to do some debate tournament judging in Chicago.

Wickersham, a political science major, got into debate as a high school freshman at Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose, Calif. He's currently an assistant coach for the debating team there.

"It's a lot of work, but it's really rewarding," said Wickersham, who also plans to become a lawyer.

During the regular season, all 10 debate squad members put in about 20 to 30 hours a week researching their topic and practicing, Achten said. In the weeks leading up to the national championship, that jumps to 60 or 70 hours a week.

In the last six years, the team has twice won the Copeland award for their success over the course of a season.

Now that the nationals are behind them, Achten said the team is taking a brief break. But they're already getting ready for next year - checking to see if the high school students they recruited got accepted and scheduling the first meeting for next year's team before this year's classes even get out. Achten is already feeling pretty optimistic.

"This year we had one of the strongest freshman teams in years, so we have a very strong team going forward," he said.

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