The UR Debate team is currently ranked seventh in the nation and they are aspiring to be number one. “The next few weeks are very important,” Director of Forensics and Head Debate Coach Sam Nelson said. “I think we have a chance to be number one in both of the final rankings at the end of the year.”

Nelson also teaches courses in debate and argumentation as part of the English Department. The two debate rankings are the National Debate Tournament Rankings and Cross Examination Debate Association. The UR Debate team is ranked seventh in both.

Two of the most promising debaters for the UR Team are seniors John Vermitsky and Christy Webster. “[They] make up the most successful debate team in the history of Rochester debate,” Nelson said. The team of Vermitsky and Webster recently went undefeated in a tournament at Cornell.

Vermitsky sees the universal benefits of debate. “Debate teaches critical thinking skills that are useful in any profession,” he said. He added that debate made it possible for him to go to law school, and may fund it as well, in the form of scholarships.

Seniors are not the only people who do well in debate. Nelson named several first year debaters who he thought held promise. He is hopeful that “four years from now some of these Rochester students may be among the nation’s best debaters.”

UR Debate, however, would not be possible without support from the school. Many of the tournaments, especially the ones on a national level, are far away.

“The [Students’] Association has been extremely helpful with funding,” Nelson said. Further support comes from Martin Messenger, a trustee and former member of the UR Debate team. “Without all the pieces of this puzzle, Rochester debate would not be nearly as successful,” Nelson said.

Snitkoff can be reached at

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