Southeast Debate Team Crowned National Champions


debate teamCAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., March 24, 2016 – The Southeast Missouri State University debate team was crowned the 2016 national champion at the National Educational Debate Association’s (NEDA) National Debate Tournament March 11-12 hosted by Fullerton College.

Southeast was represented by three teams competing in the novice crossfire division. Students debated whether the U.S. federal government should significantly raise the minimum wage. All three of Southeast’s teams finished in the top five of their division. The teams brought home awards for first, second and fifth place finishes.

“Winning the NEDA National Debate Tournament is amazing for both the debaters and the University,” said Avery Henry, faculty advisor for the debate team. “They have worked extremely hard all season long. Most of the students are not taking debate for credit, but they still find the time to attend weekly meetings, meeting in their own time, and still excelling in their classes. I could not be prouder of the hard work and success of this group of students.”

Two of the teams made it to the final round where they shared the honors of being co-national champions. Gregory Johnson of Bolingbrook, Illinois, was undefeated in preliminary rounds with a record of 6-0. He defeated a team from Anderson University to earn his way to the finals.

The team of Jo Nell Cougill of Jackson, Missouri, and Collin Ritter of Advance, Missouri, finished with a 402 preliminary record and defeated a Ball State University team in the semi-finals.

The team of Grace Lester of Wildwood, Missouri, and Jordan Keel of St. Charles, Missouri, were quarter-finalists that finished in fifth place overall.

On top of the impressive team success, two individuals also earned individual speaker awards. Johnson was the top speaker of the tournament, and Cougill finished in third place.

The students’ success is even more impressive because the NEDA recently expanded to incorporate more universities, according to Henry. The Southeast students are the best novice crossfire style debaters in the entire country, he said.

For more information about the Southeast debate team, visit