Debating Lions Brings Home State Championship

February 20, 2019

On Saturday, February 9th, the Bryan Debate Team competed at Carson-Newman University for the annual Tennessee Intercollegiate Forensics Association (TIFA) Tournament. TIFA represents Tennessee’s State Championships for one-person and two-person debate.

Bryan’s Debate Team is currently comprised of Spencer Baker, Emily Webber, Alex Daniels, and Jack Dunn. Chris Absher of Lee University joined Baker, Webber, and Daniels to complete two, two-person teams for the Varsity level NPDA debate. Dunn competed in the Novice division as a ‘Maverick,’ giving all speeches normally presented by a two person team in each round.

From left to right: Alex Daniels, Spencer Baker, Jack Dunn, and Emily Webber

Competition was tough in the championship tournament, but the Debating Lions held their own, capturing three of the top four speaking awards and two of the top four debate awards.

Awards were presented to:

1st Place Speaker Award and State Champion – Spencer Baker
2nd Place Speaker Award – Chris Absher
4th Place Speaker Award – Emily Webber

1st Place Varsity Debate and State Champions – Spencer Baker/Emily Webber
4th Place Varsity Debate – Alex Daniels/Chris Absher

Coach Liz Absher noted the team’s dedication to their work before competition even began; the night before the tournament, the team gathered in the hotel to practice on the topic ‘The US Should Stay Out of Venezuela.” Their practice paid off – the resolution for the Round 3 of the tournament the following day was, “The US Should Intervene in Venezuela.”

“I am so thankful for a team that will practice rather than play,” Ms. Absher said of her team, “and for the Lord helping us pick a relevant practice topic!”

The semifinal round of competition saw both Bryan Varsity teams pitted against each other. “The great thing going into that debate was that we knew there would be a Debating Lions team in the finals. After the completion of that semi-final round, one of the judges reported to me that it was one of the best rounds she had ever seen, and congratulated me on the speaking skills of our students,” reported Ms. Absher.

For the championship round, the teams were given the resolution “Tennessee Should Pass House Resolution H493 (Sensible Enforcement of Cannabis Act)”. The entire team aided in the fifteen-minute prep period, and Baker and Webber won the round.

In the Novice Division, Dunn claimed a win in two of four preliminary rounds, holding his own as a single person team and coming short of the semifinals by only one round. Regarding Dunn, a sophomore, Ms. Absher remarked: “He has a bright debating future!”

Other teams competing included UTK, MTSU, Carson-Newman, Tennessee Tech, Vols State, University of Memphis, Pellissippi State, and Walter’s State.

In addition to their multiple awards, the Debating Lions will host Bryan’s first-ever debate tournament Saturday, March 2nd, at 7:30 pm.

The Bryan Debate Team meets on Monday evenings from 6-8:30 pm in Mercer 117. All students are welcome to observe and/or join the team. For more information, contact Coach Liz Absher at

The team with Coach Liz Absher

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