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Posted on December 13, 2017
While many Wesleyan students spend time studying or catching up with friends over the weekend, an elite parliamentary debate team wields passionate words, hoping to persuade a judge that their perspective is better than their opponents.
Dakota Yates, a senior in Communications, and Megan Kline, a sophomore in Biomedical Chemistry, have known each other for six years, but this school year is the first time the El Dorado, KS, natives have teamed up on the debate floor. Their friendship and shared experiences are yielding great success at KWU.
“We don’t even talk to each other once we start debating. We are in tune with each other and know what we have to do win rounds,” said Kline.
The duo has competed in five tournaments so far, claiming top honors at the University of Central Michigan, Southeast Oklahoma, Jackrabbit Joust and Cameron Christmas Classic.
Their victories came against fellow NAIA schools and big D1 universities.
“Just because we’re small doesn’t mean we can’t be competitive and can’t beat other teams,” said Kline.
Wesleyan’s debate and forensics program is coached by Gary Harmon. He’s a bit of a legend in the Kansas debate world. During his 40-year tenure as a high school coach, he helped turn the state into a debate powerhouse.
Now, under Harmon’s tutelage, Kansas Wesleyan has won 49 national debate championships in 12 years.
That success doesn’t come easy.
Preparing for a tournament can feel like a part-time job. Yates estimates that he spends at least 20 hours per week developing debate and forensics materials. The team has a dedicated squad room on campus where they conduct research, gather evidence, prepare cases and practice speeches. Often, they order pizza and sequester themselves until a particular argument is ironed out.
It’s worth the sacrifice.
“Debate teaches you to think critically, push arguments and take things a step further,” Yates said. “It gives you so much back as an individual, preparing you for success anywhere you go in life.”
Kline, a pre-med student, couldn’t agree more. Debate has taught her how to study well and communicate respectfully with someone who thinks differently. She said these skills will come in handy someday as a cardio-thoracic surgeon.
The dynamic duo has five more regional tournaments before national competitions in March. They hope to surpass last year’s success, when Yates and his previous teammate, Alex Vore, took fourth in the nation in varsity parliamentary debate.
“I’m really grateful for the success I’ve seen,” Yates said. “I don’t take it for granted.”