The conquerors of Vassar gather in Rockefeller Hall to celebrate their many victories. Vassar’s tournament theme was “The Glory of Rome” and they awarded top team and top varsity speaker with a sword/shield and helmet, respectively. Rutgers won all three pieces of Roman hardware, along with many plaques. Left to right: Chris Baia, Ashley Novak, Storey Clayton, Oksana Soomai, Sean Leonard, Arbi Llaveshi, Alex Jubb, Rachel Moon, Russell Potter, Quinn Maingi, Deepta Janardhan, Chris Bergman, Adam Bomeisl, Henry Phipps, Kurt Falk, and Nisha Kumar.

The Rutgers University Debate Union (RUDU) closed the semester with gusto by winning the Vassar tournament, earning top varsity and top novice speaker, and securing 4th place in the national rankings halfway through the year. The last tournament of the semester was the best of the year so far, with Rutgers teams taking 1st, 6th, 8th, 9th, and 10th place teams. Russell Potter and Adam Bomeisl won the tournament in their first ever individual final round appearances. The sophomore/junior duo jumps to the 11th ranked partnership in the country, joining three other RUDU pairings in the top 20. The team also qualified for the National Championships, joining Ashley Novak in that feat.

RUDU’s participation in the tournament, including travel, was sponsored entirely by the Rutgers School of Communication and Information (SC&I).

Meanwhile, Sean Leonard accomplished one of the rarest feats in APDA debate by winning both the top novice and top varsity speaker award. This was last done by Sesenu Woldemariam of Yale in April 2011, at the final regular season tournament of the year. Woldemariam finished the year as the Novice of the Year (NOTY), ahead of RUDU’s own Ashley Novak. Leonard now will be ranked 6th NOTY going into the month-long recess from competition for winter break.

Here is the long list of official accomplishments for RUDU at Vassar 2012:
Russell Potter & Adam Bomeisl – 1st Team
Sean Leonard & Nisha Kumar – 6th Team
Ashley Novak & Kurt Falk – 8th Team
Chris Bergman & Quinn Maingi – 9th Team
Arbi Llaveshi & Rachel Moon – 10th Team
Sean Leonard – 1st Speaker
Russell Potter – 4th Speaker
Ashley Novak – 6th Speaker
Arbi Llaveshi – 10th Speaker
Sean Leonard – 1st Novice Speaker

The tournament wins and three appearances in elimination rounds cement a fourth overall ranking for RUDU in the American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA) standings. Yale and Brandeis are fairly established as #1 and #2, respectively, while Harvard, Rutgers, and Johns Hopkins are tightly packed in the next three spots, only a couple points apart. Rutgers stands at 150.5 points in the College of the Year (COTY) rankings. Last year, RUDU earned 124 points for the entire year – this term was 21% better than all of last season. Rutgers finished last year ranked 9th overall.

The win for Potter and Bomeisl went through three of the top four schools. They defeated teammates from Rutgers (Leonard & Kumar) in quarterfinals, a Yale team in semifinals, and a Brandeis team in finals. Harvard did not attend this tournament. The quarterfinal between Potter/Bomeisl and Leonard/Kumar was the second Rutgers “civil war” this year. Potter/Bomeisl lost the prior one, at Maryland, to Bergman/Maingi, who went on to final at the tournament.

The elimination round appearance was the first this year for Kumar, a senior in her third year of debating for Rutgers. Leonard made his second run to elimination rounds after a torrid speaking performance throughout preliminary rounds. Falk broke to out-rounds for the third time this term, Potter and Bomeisl the fourth, and Novak the fifth.

This was the first outright tournament win for Rutgers in exactly two years. On this weekend two years ago, Bergman and Novak stunned the field at UMBC and won the tournament as a sophomore/freshman team. Since then, Rutgers has appeared in six final rounds, always finishing second until this weekend.

Novak heads into the break ranked 6th Speaker of the Year (SOTY), the only woman in the top ten. Rutgers now has a team record seven entrants on the SOTY rankings, with Leonard and Potter debuting this weekend after their awards at Vassar. They are joined by Bergman, Alex Jubb, Falk, and Bomeisl. Five RUDU debaters were ranked on the SOTY Board in 2010-2011, a record that has stood till this weekend.

Leonard is the third Rutgers debater ever to win a top varsity speaker award on APDA, joining Farhan Ali and Bergman. Given that this is his first semester on the circuit, he seems likely to repeat this feat.

Novak, Bomeisl, and Potter give RUDU three Nationals qualifications halfway through the year. Bergman, Maingi, Falk, Jubb, Gordon Morrisette, and Leonard are all well over halfway qualified with 12 regular season tournaments left to attend next term. The Rutgers record for qualifications is five, set in 2010-2011. Bomeisl and Potter had never qualified for Nationals before dominating Vassar.