Seawolf Debaters place in Top 8 at national championship

April 14, 2016
Seawolf Debaters Samuel Erickson, on the left, and Sarah Elton pose for a photo in the Seawolf Debate room in the Administration Building on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus in Anchorage, Alaska Friday, Jan. 9, 2015.

Seawolf Debaters Samuel Erickson, on the left, and Sarah Elton pose for a photo in the Seawolf Debate room in the Administration Building on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus in Anchorage, Alaska Friday, Jan. 9, 2015.

Atlanta, GA, April 13, 2016 – On Monday, Seawolf Debaters at the United States Universities Debating Championship advanced further than any other public institution in attendance, earning them a spot among the Top 8 debate teams in the nation in the semifinal round. Three of the six teams UAA traveled to the national championship distinguished themselves by earning a spot in elimination rounds as the top 18 percent of the field.

The 2016 U.S. Universities Debating Championship, hosted by Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, boasted 180 teams from all corners of the United States. Over the course of Saturday and Sunday, all six teams representing UAA competed in seven preliminary rounds, debating issues of income redistribution, news cycles, and political sovereignty. With the conclusion of the preliminary phase, it was the teams of Sarah Elton & Sam Erickson, Johanna Richter & Jonathon Taylor, and Matthieu Ostrander & Jacob Shercliffe who wooed the judges and accumulated enough wins to advance to the octofinal round of the championship. It was the solo UAA team of Sarah Elton & Sam Erickson that successfully knocked out a team from Yale University, and unfortunately Richter & Taylor, to advance to the quarterfinal round.

In the quarterfinal round Elton & Erickson faced teams from Cornell University, Stanford University and Bates University. The UAA duo was chosen to advance to semifinals along with Stanford University. Despite their strong showing, the Seawolves would have to settle for semifinalist awards as a team from Tufts University went on to win the national championship. Elton & Erickson as a team lasted further in the competition than any other public university, finishing as one of the Top 8 teams in the nation. Their success should come as no surprise after winning the Western Region Championship this past March.

UAA was one of only three schools to advance more than two teams to elimination rounds, alongside Cornell and Yale. “It’s an incredible feeling to hear other debaters see that they’ll be facing a team from Alaska and hear them bemoan the match up in the same way you’d hear them lament if they had to face Harvard or Yale,” noted Seawolf Debate alumni Michael Rose (National Champion 2005) at a recent team practice, “Our program is just that good.”


Senior member Johanna Richter (far right) poses with teammates Hayley Cavitt (far left) and Kathryn Casello (middle) at the 2016 U.S. Universities Debating Championship in Atlanta, Georgia.

This weekend’s success is surely a testament to the Seawolf Debate Program’s excellence. Anchorage will have an opportunity to see Elton & Erickson in action April 21 at the Discovery Theater in the UAA versus Hart House debate. Hart House Debating Union, hailing from the University of Toronto, joins UAA as one of the world’s Top 20 debate programs. The topic for that debate is, “Do consumers have an obligation to buy locally?” with guest commentary from Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and UAA professors Stephanie Bauer (Philosophy) and Kyle Hampton (Economics). Tickets start at $20 and are on sale now at

For senior members Richter, Ostrander, Taylor, and Elton, this championship marked the last of their competitive days for Seawolf Debate. All four debaters have had a great competitive run and their legacy will certainly carry on through their teammates, like sophomores Shercliffe & Erickson.

“Debate has been the most educational and rewarding activity I have ever participated in. It gave me a forum to cultivate my intellect and curiosity in a way no other academic experience has been able to,” remarked Johanna Richter. When asked about what’s next Richter remarked, “I don’t know what life after debate is like, although I’m hoping that for me it will involve many dogs, hiking, spending time with my sweet partner and gainful employment.”

To see the tournament from an insider’s view, check out the team’s Instagram page @seawolfdebate.

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