LAWRENCE — Kansas Debate's historic run at the National Debate Tournament, hosted by Harvard University, ended March 30 at the semifinals. The University of Kansas team of Azja Butler, Lansing, and Ross Fitzpatrick, Leawood, lost a hard-fought 3-2 split decision against the University of Michigan in the tournament's Final Four after winning 11 consecutive debates. They were the 18th KU team in tournament history to reach the Final Four and the fourth in the last five years.
Butler and Fitzpatrick were 8-0 in the preliminary rounds and qualified for the single-elimination rounds as the top seed. They defeated the University of Minnesota in the Sweet 16 on a 5-0 decision. They defeated the University of California Fullerton in the Elite Eight on a 4-3 decision to advance to the semifinals.
Other tournament highlights:
- KU had two teams in the Elite Eight for the first time since 1988.
- KU had three teams in the Sweet 16 for the first time ever.
- KU's Butler became the first Black woman to win the Ross Smith Top Speaker award.
- KU's Nate Martin, of Lansing, took the second-place speaker award, and Graham Revare, of Shawnee, took 12th place.
Read previous coverage of Kansas Debate performance at the 2021 National Debate Tournament.
"I want to thank all the members of the 2020-21 KU debate team who worked so hard to support their teammates and who are a part of every win. It takes the entire squad to raise trophies, and this is a squad I truly love," said Scott Harris, KU Debate coach.
Harris said he appreciated the support of the Department of Communication Studies, which arranged space in Bailey Hall that gave Jayhawks an "unrivaled" setup for online debate. He also expressed thanks to university leadership and the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences for their support as well as for the funding from Student Senate that allows Kansas Debate to work with a large squad.
Coaching staff and volunteers included Assistant Coach Brett Bricker as well as Jyleesa Hampton, Alaina Walberg, Julia Henry, Will Katz, Jesse Smith, Benton Bajorek, Ned Gidley, Derek Hilligoss, Talya Slaw, Jacob Justice and Allie Chase.
The KU Debate season continues with the Cross Examination Debate Association National Championship Debate tournament, which begins April 9.