The Louisville Cardinal

U of L Debate team takes the nation by storm

File Photo / Chinnel Williams

By Taylor Webster — 

Chinnel Williams joined the University of Louisville Debate Team after her Pan-African studies professor recommended it. Williams said the constitution law class with Professor Elizabeth Jones changed her life.

“I never thought that taking this class would be pivotal to who I am today, but it jump-started my academic career and life journey,” Williams said.

Williams joined the debate team in 2016 and met the late Savannah Walker. As partners, they were octafinalists at the Robert Huber Debates 2016 at the University of Vermont. They placed first at the 2017 University of Southern California Debate Tournament.

The pair then placed second at the 2017 Kathryn Classic tournament in Fullerton, California. Walker was shot and killed shortly after this tournament in March 2017 at a Tim Faulkner Art Gallery concert. Williams was discouraged to continue debating after the death of her partner. With the help of debate director, coach and “mom away from home,” Tiffany Dillard- Knox, she said she was able to persevere.

William’s new partner is Deontrey Yeargin, who was a “brilliant” high school debater from Baltimore and competed on the national high school circuit.

The twosome landed in the top 20 debate teams in the country in the College Policy Debate Circuit.

“Debate requires a lot of time,” Williams said. “It’s very difficult to be able to balance both debate and school because we have to do graduate-level research, we practice three times a week at 8 a.m. for two hours and we travel frequently for regional and national tournaments.”

Williams had nothing to worry about because she is a semi-finalist for a Fulbright Research Grant to Trinidad and Tobago, maintained a 3.9 GPA for the school year, and is excelling in debate.

Williams and Yeargin have accomplished making it to doubles at the 2017 Franklin R. Shirley Classic Tournament, quarterfinalists at the doubles tournament at the University of California Berkeley in January 2018 and lastly octafinalists at the University of Texas-Austin Open Tournament February 2018.

At Berkeley they both were named top-20 speakers out of 200 debaters.

The pair finished their regular season ranked 16th in the country. Williams and Yeargin finished top seed in their district tournament, which means they’re competing in the National Debate Tournament at the end of March.

This will be William’s last semester as a debater, but her partner is only a freshman.

“He is someone to look for these next couple of years,” Williams said. “He is intelligent, dedicated, remarkably talented and has made great strides in his first year of college.”

Williams and Yeargin will soon enter the most intense part of their season. The pair will compete at the two biggest tournaments of the year — The Cross-Examination Debate Association Tournament and the National Debate Tournament. yeah but when?