Central Michigan University's mastery of the 2021 Pi Kappa Delta National Comprehensive Tournament wasn't even up for debate: Two members of Team CMU shared the championship when they met in the final elimination round of the virtual event March 21.
"Tyler Tobias and Natalie Brant are incredibly talented and hard-working debaters," said
debate program coach
Joe Packer, a
faculty member. "Winning a national championship is an enormous accomplishment, but for two teammates to close out the tournament is on another level."
If debaters from the same school are set to compete in the elimination debates, no debate occurs, and the debater with the higher seed advances. Tobias, a junior, and Brant, a freshman, were on opposite sides of the bracket and met in the final round.
"I felt very empowered when I found out I had won with Tyler," Brant said. "Coming into this season, I just had the goal to do my best and get better. I like to think that this accomplishment fulfills and surpasses the standards I had originally set for myself."
Brant, from Wichita, Kansas, is double majoring in
international relations and
philosophy and minoring in
communication. Tobias, from Natchez, Mississippi, is majoring in
environmental studies and philosophy with a minor in
biology. He joined the team last year.
"I am ecstatic to have won a PKD national title," Tobias said. "It's been a goal of mine since I started competing,
along with winning a National Forensic Association national title. Our team has worked extremely hard during what has been a tumultuous year for a lot of programs around the country."
Brant said the beginning of the tournament looked rough for her: By the end of Day One her record was 1-2.
"The next day I didn't lose a round, which helped boost me into the elimination rounds," she said. "Everyone loves a good comeback."
Brant said debate teaches her how to talk about difficult topics in informative ways that help in classes, schoolwork and conversation. It also is an opportunity to network with other students and adults all over the country.
"Something about debate that is very important to me personally is that it reminds me that I have a voice and that I am heard," she said.
In addition to winning their elimination rounds based on speaker points and ratings, Brant and Tobias earned top speaker awards, Brant as First Speaker and Tobias as Second. Tobias was undefeated in the preliminary rounds and throughout the tournament.
CMU's Lucas Leodler, a junior, was Seventh Speaker and reached the quarterfinals. Freshman Asia Robinson was Ninth Speaker and made it to the octofinals.
Packer said CMU's previous best in the national tournament was in 2016, when Audrey Weber, now Audrey Brown, won the competition.
CMU debate currently has six members. The team typically travels to around 12 competitions a year but has done more this year because all are virtual. Packer has coached the team since he came to CMU in 2013.