Skip to navigation

Debate Society Competitors Place High in Tournament, Qualify for Nationals

Covenant College's young Debate Society made an impressive showing at a recent competition, and three Covenant students qualified for the national tournament. 


The Tennessee Porch Swing tournament, held at Carson Newman College on November 20-21, 2009, hosted 85 students from fourteen schools. Covenant's Sarah Swygard '13 and Zach Robbins '12 took first and second place, respectively, in the extemporaneous speaking competition, and Susanna Griffith '13 earned third place in impromptu speaking. All three qualified for the National Forensics Association (NFA) national tournament.


The Tennessee Porch Swing is only the second tournament in which Covenant's Debate Society has competed. The club contended with students from schools such as Belmont College, the University of Tennessee, and Clemson University.


"We had minimal preparation and limited resources," says Zach Robbins, president of the Debate Society, "but God blessed our efforts with great success. We received remarkable encouragement and compliments from program directors from other schools that have been doing this for years. . . . Taking first and second place in one event is a statement that is taken seriously by other schools."


Covenant students formed the Debate Society in the fall of 2008. They performed well in January at the Patrick Henry Communicator Classic, their first tournament, where two Covenant students finished in the top five overall.


The recent Tennessee Porch Swing competition was a much larger tournament with an additional ten colleges represented. For Robbins, the team's success was a huge step forward in the development of the club. "We saw a lot of freshmen step up to some big responsibilities and perform at a very high level," he says.


Ragan Brock '13, Andrew VanDyke '13, Luke Granholm '11, and Peter Yagel '10, competed along with Robbins, Swygard, and Griffith. "It was really exciting to see everyone excel at the tournament," says Swygard. "Not only is the program young, but a lot of the competitors are younger students, so there is a strong future ahead for the team."


Robbins sees Covenant's Debate Society as intimately connected with the College's mission to explore and express the preeminence of Jesus Christ in all things. "If we don't know how to communicate with our culture, how can we expect to make a difference?" he asks. "Through the Society and the development of a forensics program, I think we can develop and lead students to be better equipped to communicate with our culture on a variety of issues."


The Debate Society plans to continue competing in a variety of national and regional tournaments in the spring semester.