Sarah Wellard had never competed in a debate tournament before, but with the encouragement from her more experienced teammate, Priyanka Deo, she found something she not only enjoys but excels in.
On Saturday, December 1, Wellard, a junior at UIS, and Deo, a sophomore, won top honors at the 20th annual "Study Break Debate Tournament" at Webster University in St. Louis. The two were the single undefeated team among the 23 teams participating.
Additionally, both also won individual "speaker" awards, with Deo earning the "top novice speaker" designation, and Wellard ranked ninth.
Deo said she had debated in high school and wanted to do it again at UIS, and Wellard said she decided to get involved with debate after taking an Oral Communication class with Thomas Bartl. Bartl is the faculty adviser of the UIS Forensics Team, which Wellard and Deo belong to.
"I was surprised with a lot of the format; I didn't really know what was going on until we got going, but Priyanka definitely helped me a lot," Wellard said.
During the debate, the pairs debate against each other and are given a topic they have to argue. Wellard and Deo were given topics such as making the school year 12 months and the Patriot Act.
"We just really don't know what's coming at us; it's very random," Deo said. "We just have to go in and do our best."
The team said they are definitely planning to continue debating together, with another tournament coming up in January.
"It was a great experience; we'll definitely do it again," Wellard said.