UK debate team takes on the nation in first place spot


UK’s Intercollegiate Debate Team is currently ranked first in the nation, a first since 1995.

Korrie Harris

UK has yet another team to cheer for: The debate team is currently ranked top in the nation.

A couple of weeks ago, UK held the 46th annual Kentucky “Run for the Roses,” a tournament limited to the top seven debate teams in the nation. Those teams included Wake Forest, Berkeley, Georgia, Emory, Michigan, UNLV and Kentucky. It was at that tournament where the UK debate team became number one after their successful wins.

The debate team also beat Wake Forest, Northwestern, Dartmouth College and Harvard (twice) along the way to end with a record of 18-1 that granted them their new first place ranking, a ranking they haven’t had since 1995.

The debate team has one of the best partnerships in the nation. Dan Bannister and Anthony Trufanov, both juniors, were ranked fifth in the nation last year. Currently ranked number one after their win during the “Run for the Roses” tournament, both debaters won speaker awards for their arguments.

Bannister, formerly from Minnesota, has participated in debate since his freshman year of high school. Bannister said he wasn’t really sure if college debate was in his plans, but he received a scholarship for debate from UK and changed his mind. Since then, he has been on a roll with his partner, taking the debate world by storm.

“Basically, what my partner and I do is we spend about probably an average of three hours a day of just doing research on the year-long debate topic and writing out arguments so when we come to the next tournament, we’ll have a bunch of research prepared,” Bannister said.

On top of debate preparation, Bannister is also a student majoring in political science. Yet, he hasn’t felt the pressure of his workload due to debate helping him out.

“I have such a head start, in terms of knowledge of world issues and the ability to, like, do a lot of research in a short time pressed parameter,” Bannister said. “So, writing papers are really easy, contributing to class discussions are easy so I think it helps a lot.”

David Arnett is the director of the debate team. He participated in debate throughout his life and went on to coach for 12 years at Berkeley. Following that, he came to UK and has been leading the debate team for nine years.

“I think what most directors find, especially in 2018, with, you know, the way education struggles for funding everywhere for everything is that being a director is keeping your program alive and whatever that takes,” Arnett said.

Arnett works to ensure that the debate program is always sustained such as recruiting to keep the program and its members competitive, along with fundraising. The debate team is known for hosting four major tournaments: two for high school and two for college.

One of those competitions is the highly prestigious and competitive Tournament of Champions, which has been around for almost 50 years.

Jacinda Rivas, a senior, triple major and debate team member, was interested in debate due to her passion to talk to others and engage. Rivas believed that debate was “the best medium.”

“Having people around you that are also dedicated and want you to succeed is really important for framing that success,” Rivas said.

As the debate team moves forward, Arnett said he wants to keep the team competitive.

“That’s what gets me excited is having a hard-working team that’s enjoying it and we’re doing it the right way,” Arnett said.