Two West High seniors are having a record-breaking debate season. The two compete as a partnership in a type of debate called policy debate. This year’s policy debate topic is space exploration and development. Both have researched the topic extensively and have prepared themselves to argue for and against almost every aspect of United States space exploration, from the feasibility of NASA technology to the discursive implications of space policy.
With only half of their season complete, Jeffrey Ding and Liam Hancock have accumulated six Tournament of Champions bids, more than any other team in the country. They are also currently ranked first in the country by debaterankings.com, a website that tracks results for tournaments and uses a national points ranking system to compare teams.
Ding and Hancock have finished in the top eight teams of every tournament they have attended so far this year, with two first place finishes. One of those first place finishes came at the prestigious University of Michigan tournament at the beginning of November where after three days and twelve rounds worth of debating, they claimed the title of champion in a field of over 150 teams.
Just two weeks after their first place finish at the University of Michigan, Ding and Hancock reached the semifinals of the largest high school debate tournament in the country, the Glenbrooks tournament, hosted by Glenbrook North and Glenbrook South High Schools in North Shore area of Chicago. Although they lost their semifinal round to the eventual champions of the tournament, Ding came home with the top speaker award after earning more speaker points than any of the other 300+ debaters at the tournament. Hancock was 15th speaker.
When asked why they have been so successful, West High senior Jeffrey Ding responds modestly with, “I feel our success has been a product of hard work, a strong team behind us, including other members and devoted coaches, and a good dose of luck.” There are several more tournaments to go for Ding and Hancock before the end of their season, including competitions in Minneapolis, Atlanta, and San Francisco, but they already have their sights set on the annual Tournament of Champions. The Tournament of Champions is a high school debate tournament held annually at the University of Kentucky on the first weekend in May. It is the most prestigious tournament on the national circuit, representing the top 72 policy debate teams in the country. Teams must earn two bids to qualify; Ding and Hancock have six. This is Ding’s second year qualifying for this event.
Ding has two overall goals that he’d like to accomplish before he graduates and his high school debate experience comes to an end.
“I’d like to continue West High dominance at the state level and hopefully challenge for a national championship,” he says.
Ding and Hancock are coached by Melanie Johnson, Megan Johnson, and Travis Henderson.