PHC civic debate team makes waves at Miami Oceans Debate Tournament

Posted by Annalise van der Wel on 6/23/23 12:22 PM

PHC at Miami Oceans Debate Tournament

One of Patrick Henry College's debate teams recently made waves at the Miami Oceans Debates tournament held at the University of Miami last month. Led by coach Ryan McDonald, the debaters showcased their skills and emerged victorious. Freshmen competitors Ezekiel Johnson and Jesse Castrinos placed first in the Novice Final Round. Additionally, PHC Senior Sarah Schmidtler was recognized as the 2nd place individual speaker at the whole competition.

The topic of the debate centered around the acceleration of open ocean aquaculture. Debaters discussed the environmental, socio-cultural, economic, and political consequences of advancing or ignoring the industry.

PHC team declared 2023 Schuman Challenge Champions

Aware of the predominantly liberal climate at the tournament, Johnson says the PHC teams acknowledged the need to adjust their approach when preparing for their eventual presentation: "We knew that many teams would be more liberal so we focused on more climate issues." The team expected a liberal atmosphere but was surprised by how liberal the audience and other debaters were.

Both Johnson and Castrinos competed in debate while in high school, like the NCFCA. They were used to a “conservative, Christian audience, which is not the intercollegiate debate world, as we quickly found out,” says Castrinos.

This surprise meant that the PHC team had to adapt their approach while at the Miami Oceans Debates. The team found that many other groups focused on the impact of Open Ocean Aquaculture on indigenous people groups. During each round, their strategy was to keep the discussion from becoming a philosophical debate and pursue a “common sense” case that “anyone, whether very conservative or very liberal, could understand,” says Castrinos.

Learn more about Civic Debate at Patrick Henry College

Their strategy proved successful as they went on to beat Vanderbilt in the Novice Final Round. As Coach McDonald said, “This uniquely highlights the strong future of the PHC Debate program since it means PHC has some of the best up-and-coming novice debaters in the nation, that will continue to showcase their talents in the years to come.”

Johnson, Castrinos, and Schmidtler would like to express their thanks to Patrick Henry College’s coaching team, including head coach Ryan McDonald. They would also extend thanks to PHC’s intramural debaters who put in countless hours—all the way up to the final round—helping them prepare for the Miami Oceans Debates.


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  Patrick Henry College exists to glorify God by challenging the status quo in higher education, lifting high both faith and reason within a rigorous academic environment; thereby preserving for posterity the ideals behind the "noble experiment in ordered liberty" that is the foundation of America.


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