A file photo of Farhan Ali. It was too cold to take pictures at Middlebury.

The Rutgers University Debate Union (RUDU) put on one of its most impressive showings of the 2010-2011 season in 2011’s inaugural tournament, a snow-blown contest at Middlebury College in Vermont. Three of the five teams representing Rutgers finished in the top five teams at the tournament, and Farhan Ali became the fifth Rutgers debater this season to qualify for the National Championships.

Here’s what RUDU did at Middlebury 2011:
Farhan Ali & David G. Michael [Williams College] – 2nd Team [finalists] David Reiss & Kyle Bomeisl – 3rd Team [semifinalists] Ashley Novak & Gordon Morrisette – 5th Team [quarterfinalists] Farhan Ali – 1st Speaker
David Reiss – 5th Speaker
Ashley Novak – 8th Speaker
Ashley Novak & Gordon Morrisette – 1st Novice Team
Ashley Novak – 1st Novice Speaker
Gordon Morrisette – 4th Novice Speaker

Farhan’s run to Finals, the top of the tab, and Nationals qualification is all the more amazing because it almost didn’t happen – he was within minutes of judging at Middlebury instead of competing. His original partner dropped from the tournament shortly before the team departed for Vermont, leaving him hoping to find another person to compete with upon arrival at the debate. David G. Michael, a novice from Williams, was slated to judge but agreed to compete instead, and the two made a fantastic team, winning 4 of 5 rounds in preliminary competition, then going on to take quarterfinals and semifinals, though this last was against fellow Rutgers team Dave & Kyle.

Meanwhile, Gordon broke to varsity elimination rounds for the first time in his career, joining Ashley to comprise the 4th seeded team after preliminary rounds. They dropped a 2-1 decision to Columbia in quarterfinals, but cemented their placement as top novice team at yet another tournament this year with the break to varsity outs. Ashley has now broken to varsity outrounds at three straight tournaments. Gordon joins Krishna Kavi & Bhargavi Sriram as having points toward qualification for Nationals with twelve regular-season tournaments to go in the year.

Meanwhile, Dave & Kyle strengthened their hold on third Team of the Year (TOTY) with the semifinalist showing, losing a contentious 3-2 decision to teammate Farhan in that round. They trail BU by a couple points and Yale by about twenty. With the 5th speaker performance, Dave is know just a few points shy of the top ten in Speaker of the Year (SOTY).

After losing a 4-3 decision in finals, Rutgers was one ballot shy of winning top team, top novice team, top speaker, and top novice speaker at the tournament.

Rutgers now has five teams in the TOTY rankings, five in SOTY, and four in NOTY, with a new addition in each category this tourney (Ashley/Gordon, Farhan, and Gordon, respectively). Last year tied records for Rutgers with one showing in TOTY, one in SOTY, and new record three in NOTY.