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Wake Forest University wins National Debate Tournament

April 1, 2008

Wake Forest University students Seth Gannon and Alex Lamballe won the National Debate Tournament Monday night at California State University in Fullerton, Calif.

Gannon, a junior from Atlanta, and Lamballe, a junior from Nashville, Tenn., defeated a team from Dartmouth College in the final round of the competition to win the national title.

The National Debate Tournament win is Wake Forest’s second in the history of the 62-year-old tournament.  In 1997, the Wake Forest team of Brian Prestes and Daveed Gartenstein-Ross won the championship.

Wake Forest was among 78 teams from nine regions chosen to compete in the tournament March 28 – 31.  Gannon and Lamballe qualified for the tournament because they were ranked seventh in the nation based on their 2007-2008 debate season performance.  Two other Wake Forest teams also qualified for the tournament.

In addition, Gannon was the 10th place individual speaker and Lamballe was the 19th place individual speaker among 156 debaters.  Gannon is majoring in English.  Lamballe is majoring in political science.

They were coached by Ross Smith, director of debate at Wake Forest, and J.P. Lacy, head debate coach at Wake Forest.  Smith, a debate coach at Wake Forest since 1984, has qualified more teams to the elimination rounds than any other coach in the nation during the past decade.

"These two debaters are just exceptionally talented,” Smith said. “They are particularly gifted at getting to the heart of a question and they are incredibly hard working. …The back-to- back speeches I heard from Seth and Alex in the final round were the best I’ve heard in a very long time.”

The team defeated Michigan State University, the University of West Georgia and Missouri State University to reach the final round.

Wake Forest has advanced to the final debate two out of the past three years. Wake Forest debate has a history that dates back to 1835, the year after the university was founded.  The program has produced numerous top debaters and is among a small number of schools that has qualified the most often for the National Debate Tournament’s finals.  In addition to more recent wins, Wake Forest has had final four finishes at the tournament in 1955, 1993, 1994 and 1995.


Editor’s note:   Ross Smith, director of debate, and debaters Seth Gannon and Alex Lamballe are reachable today by phone, but the debate team is traveling today and will not be back in Winston-Salem until after 10 p.m. 

Press Contacts:

Cheryl Walker
(336) 758-5237

Kevin Cox
(336) 758-5237

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