Magazine Feature / People

Freshman-senior debate pair takes on national tourney

For first-year international studies major David Milavetz, collegiate debate is a game. Not the playful sort, but the kind of sport that takes 30 hours of practice a week, can be fiercely competitive and even in the face of a difficult defeat, keeps the die-hards coming back for more.

Last month, Milavetz and senior international studies major Justin Eckstein traveled to Dallas for collegiate debate’s top competition, the National Debate Tournament.

The DU Debate Team has existed for most of the University’s history but has competed at the national level only five or six times, says team coach Brian Schrader, a communication master’s candidate.

Eckstein and Milavetz might seem an unlikely pair — Eckstein being the team’s most successful member to date and Milavetz having comparatively little experience. Yet, when Eckstein’s previous partner was ineligible to compete midway through the year, he chose Milavetz for his enthusiasm rather than his experience.

For Milavetz, the opportunity to partner with Eckstein was a bit daunting.

“I was kind of surprised and a little bit worried,” he says. “I knew I’d be doing 10 times more work.”

Milavetz had to learn the greater works of Frederic Nietzsche in a week so that he could argue one of the team’s positions.

“I think we work well together,” Milavetz says, noting that Eckstein helped him to strategize.

Once in Dallas, the pair had a grueling three days of arguing policy and won two preliminary debates out of a total of eight. It takes at least five wins in the preliminaries to move on to the elimination round, Schrader explains.

A team from Emory University won the tournament.

“I am still very excited about how well we performed,” Schrader says. “I think our performance this year has in many ways set us up for much more success in the future.”

For Eckstein, who competed in nationals last year as well, knowing that it would be his last tournament made it a bittersweet weekend. He says it hasn’t hit him yet that he’s leaving the team.

“They’re really good right now, and they’ll be even better after I leave,” he says. Two experienced members who temporarily left the team this year will return next year; Milavetz will have the added experience of having already competed at nationals; and a first-year pair who worked together this year is continuing to improve, Schrader explains.

“I hope to take two teams to nationals next year,” he says.

“I think we’re right on the edge of taking off,” Milavetz says. “I think we’ll be an amazing team in the next couple years.”

This article originally appeared in The Source, May 2007.

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