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Vikings end drought at nationals

Samantha Hoffman

Erich Deicke

After four years of failing to place at the prestigious National Junior Division Debate Tournament (NJDDT), Augustana debaters Samantha Hoffman and Erich Deicke returned to the promise land by going on a Cinderella run to the semifinals of the tournament this past weekend. Despite having competed as partners at only one tournament prior to the national championship, Deicke and Hoffman won seven consecutive debates to claim the top seed and advanced to Augie's first semifinal round since a second-place finish at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas tournament in October.

The NJDDT is a spin-off of the National Debate Tournament designed for students with less than two years of college experience, where students are given the opportunity to participate in eight preliminary debates over two days to decide who will advance to the elimination rounds on Monday, the "playoffs" of debate where eligible teams are seeded according to their record. Hoffman and Deicke emerged victorious in rounds against director of debate Max Archer's alma mater, North Texas, as well as defeated the tournament hosts, Johnson County Community College (JCCC), whose home advantage was not enough for the three JCCC teams to overpower Augustana. Hoffman and Deicke also won decisive contests with Southern Methodist University (TX), the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Special recognition goes out to Deicke for being honored at the ninth-place speaker at the tournament.

Despite losing narrow decisions to two heavily favored and more experienced Oshkosh and University of Northern Iowa teams, Coach Archer and the debaters were quite pleased by the success. This year marks the first time Augustana has appeared in the elimination rounds at the NJDDT since winning the tournament in 2005.

"This tournament's achievement marks the culmination of a year's worth of hard work and preparation and serves as a foundation to build upon for the last tournament of the year (the Cross-Examination Debate Association's National Championship) and the offseason," Archer said. "I have no doubt in my mind that we are among the elite, but it feels good to have this belief validated by defeating teams with many more tournaments under their belt this season."

The Vikings emerged victorious and also acquired unique knowledge and training over this year's topic:

Resolved: that the United States Federal Government should substantially reduce its agricultural support, at least eliminating nearly all of the domestic subsidies, for biofuels, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, corn, cotton, dairy, fisheries, rice, soybeans, sugar and/or wheat.

In policy debate, students argue for and against the resolution in alternating contests. On the affirmative side, the Vikings argued that federal subsidies for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or "factory farms," endangered humanity's relationship with the natural world. On the negative, students argued that reducing subsidies would contribute to in tremendous environmental degradation by causing farmers to shift to more destructive farming practices.

The Augustana Debaters travel this weekend to Pocatello, Idaho to close out the season at the nation's largest college debate tournament, CEDA Nationals. With over 140 teams competing, the Vikings stand a very good chance to build upon the success experienced at the NJDDT and wrap of the year with a high level of motivation to work hard over the summer and continue to build in the years to come.