JMU Debate Team Novices Win Second Tournament

New Competitors Are Leading the Way for Surging Team


by Becca Evans


SUMMARY: The JMU Debate Team celebrates their second Novice win of the season at the Liberty University Debate Tournament last weekend, following their first win at their debut tournament at Binghamton University in September. One novice team member was awarded Top Speaker of the novice division, and several other team members placed in their respective novice, junior varsity, and varsity categories.

The JMU Debate Team has found success once again, winning the novice division of the Liberty University Debate Tournament last weekend. The team of Adonis Ortiz (Political Science & Pre-Law, ’23) and Eric Pelletier (Political Science & Music, ’24) defeating George Mason in the final round after three days of competition. The triumph was Ortiz and Pelletier second of the season. They won their debut tournament at Binghamton University in September.

In Lynchburg, Ortiz and Pelletier benefited from the success of teammates. Ortiz and Pelletier finished the preliminary rounds with a 6-0 record to earn the top seed in elimination round and Ortiz and Pelletier received a bye through first elimination round. At the same time, JMU had two other novice teams that reached the elimination stage of the tournament. Abby Harlow (Political Science, ’24) and Andrew Zarazinski (Intelligence Analysis, ’24) earned a 4-2 record in prelims and were the #8 seed. In the octofinals, Harlow and Zarazinki defeated a team from Liberty on a 3-0 a decision, advancing them to the quarterfinals but matching them up with Ortiz and Pelletier. Ortiz and Pelletier directly to semifinals as the higher seed.

The situation repeated itself immediately. A third JMU team of Clement (Marketing, ’25) and Roy Rinehart (Economics, ’25) also went 4-2 in the preliminary rounds and were the fifth-seed. In octofinals Clement and Rinehart defeated a team from GMU and another in quarterfinals, advancing to semi-finals. Once again, JMU team were paired and Ortiz & Pelletier advanced.

The bye and the step-overs meant that Ortiz and Pelletier had the entire day to prepare for the final debate and were well-rested, setting them up for victory.

The win was Ortiz and Pelletier second tournament win in three competitions. To top it off, Pelletier was named the Top Speaker of the novice division and Ortiz was given an award for third-place speaker. Harlow and Rinehart also received individual speaker awards, ranking sixth and seventh, respectively.

Pelletier was happy with the reward, remaking, “Seeing tangible achievements, especially something like top speaker, as I've been getting better has been a really rewarding experience.”

Ian Lowery, the assistant coach in charge of the novice competitors, believes that JMU’s ability to field fourteen novice competitors contributes to the team’s success.

“My experience has taught me that a large novice squad leads to the development of a strong team culture, in which debaters work together to overcome the trials and challenges of inter-collegiate debate,” Lowery said. The debate only returned only four competitors from the previous season. The other fourteen team members are new this year.

JMU also found success in the junior varsity division and varsity. The team of Phil Duong (Communication Studies, ’23) and John Duran (International Affairs, ’24) reached the semi-finals of JV division before being defeated by a team from Mary Washington University. Duong also received an award as the JV division’s fifth-place second while Duran was ranked seventh.

In the varsity division, Matt Conway (Public Policy, 25) was named the third-place speaker.

“Matt’s a strategist,” said the team’s first-year assistant director Chaz Wyche. “He’s got a very bright future in front of him.”


The JMU Debate Team is a program of the School of Communication Studies and the College of Arts and Letters at James Madison University dedicated to providing a forum for civic dialogue and promoting intercollegiate debate competition. The JMU Debate Team is a multi-year recipient of the National Public Debate Award.

For more information, contact Dr. Michael Souders at or 540-568-5950.

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Published: Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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