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Wake Forest University places second in National Debate Tournament


April 3, 2009

Wake Forest University students Seth Gannon and Alex Lamballe took second place in the National Debate Tournament (NDT) March 30 at the University of Texas at Austin, where they were defending the championship they won last year.

Gannon, a senior English major from Atlanta, and Lamballe, a senior political science major from Nashville, Tenn., are the first Wake Forest team to have reached the finals of the national tournament twice and one of only five teams to have done so in the 63-year history of the tournament. Two other Wake Forest teams also qualified to compete in the tournament, which was held March 26-30.

In addition, Gannon was the fourth-place individual speaker and Lamballe was the eighth-place individual speaker among 156 debaters in the tournament.

Gannon and Lamballe this year defeated teams from Michigan State University, Towson State University and Northwestern University before losing in the final round to a team from the University of Kansas.  Going into the tournament, Northwestern was ranked first, Kansas was ranked second and Wake Forest was ranked third.

In three years debating together, Gannon and Lamballe are tied for sixth place among the winningest teams in NDT history.  The other team is a 2006 team from Wake Forest.

“Alex and Seth are, first and foremost, students of unimpeachable character—generous, friendly, honest, hard-working, and caring,” said Ross Smith, director of debate at Wake Forest.  “In an activity as intensely competitive as NDT debate, their character was recognized by not only their teammates, but also by all of their opponents and opposing coaches.  I cannot remember a similarly nationally successful team who was as well loved by the entire national debate community.  While we would have loved nothing more than back-to-back championships, Alex and Seth represent the best of what defines Wake Forest University.”

Smith, who has been a debate coach at Wake Forest since 1984 and has qualified more teams to the elimination rounds than any other coach in the nation during the past decade, was named the 2009 recipient of the George Ziegelmueller Award.  The award, named for the longtime coach at Wayne State University, is presented to a faculty member who has distinguished himself or herself in the communication profession while coaching teams to competitive success at the National Debate Tournament.  Ziegelmueller’s son, Bill, debated at Wake Forest before graduating in 1991.

“The Ziegelmueller award is the top award presented by the National Debate Tournament, which recognizes long-term career contributions to the national debate community, akin to a lifetime achievement award,” said Allan Louden, associate professor of communication at Wake Forest, member of the NDT board of trustees and recipient of the award in 2000.  In Ross’ case, his competitive success, coupled with being widely recognized as the leading innovator for debate practice in the country, contributed to his selection.”

Press Contacts:

Eric Frazier
(336) 758-5237


Kevin Cox
(336) 758-5237


WFU students Seth Gannon and Alex Lambelle placed second in the 2009 National Debate Tournament.
WFU students Seth Gannon and Alex Lambelle placed second in the 2009 National Debate Tournament.
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Wake Forest Debate Team
Wake Forest Debate Team
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