A Georgetown debate team won its first automatic invitation to the national debate championship since 1998.

Andrew Markoff (SFS ’14) and Richard Day (SFS ’14), a team of two freshman debaters, learned earlier this week that their team had been approved for a guaranteed bid, which will send them to the University of Texas in Dallas at the end of March to debate in the national championship. Theirs is the second all-freshman team in the tournament’s history to be named in the first round at large.

The round awards an advance spot to the top 16 debate teams in the country. In order to be approved, teams compete in six to eight tournaments during the regular debate year and then apply for approval from a national committee.

Now that they have received the committee’s blessing, Markoff and Day will spend the next month and half preparing for the tournament by researching and developing debate strategies that they hope will give them a leg up on their opponents.

According to Debate Coach Jonathan Paul, the duo has an enormous amount of preparation ahead of them.

“To put it into perspective, these guys will all spend their spring break doing research,” Paul said.

Though the invitation assures the team a place in the tournament, it does not guarantee that they will see success in Dallas. According to Paul, the team will face formidable opponents.

“This gets you there, but it doesn’t at all effect how you do at that tournament,” Paul said.

Markoff agreed, saying that the competition will prove difficult.

“There are definitely people who it would be a surprise if we beat,” he said.

To that end, Markoff and Day plan to log a number of hours studying emigration policy, which is the topic of this year’s national debate for universities.

“There’s a hundred different things you can say about emigration policy,” Paul said. “There’s kind of a surprise value if you have ideas that people aren’t prepared to debate against.”

The team’s success has largely been due to its commitment. Markoff said that he and Day have been honing their style and content since before the academic year, forfeiting much along the way.

“You don’t get a lot of sleep, and you miss some of the basketball games” Markoff said. “You have to make some sacrifices like that. We get here early and we have to stay over spring break.”

Georgetown Debate is also planning to send another team to the district championships in hopes that it will qualify for the national tournament as well. Most teams that attend the 72-team championship win their spots through such district tournaments, which pit local teams against each other with the winner advancing.

According to team members Anton Strezhnev (SFS ’13) and Andrew Arsht (COL ’14), the key to advancing past the district level lies in knowing and outsmarting your opponents.

“My partner and I are going to pull out new tricks,” Arsht said. “We’ve seen the competition at this tournament before, and this gives us a little insight into what we are facing.”

According to Paul, Georgetown Debate has seen a remarkable amount of success already.

“We’ve been advancing two teams to the elimination rounds at national tournaments,” Paul said. “That hasn’t happened in a decade.”

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