Rice’s debate team is one of the best in the U.S.

This spring, Rice seniors teamed up to finish second at the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence (NPTE) at the University of Nevada, Reno. 

Debate team captain Sonia Torres ’19 and Jason Barton ’19, who have been on the squad each of their four years at Rice, were defeated in the finals by a team from the University of California, Berkeley. Torres and Barton are the first Rice team to reach the finals at the NPTE, placing them among the top few pairs in the program’s history.

The week before, the Rice debate squad, a 10-member team, took home third place in the National Parliamentary Debate Association National Championship Tournament. For coach David Worth, these competitions were a huge testament to his team’s reputation. The team is also coached by Shannon LaBove, lecturer in humanities and associate director of forensics.

“This incredible accomplishment caps an outstanding year and career for the two seniors who regularly appeared in elimination rounds, brought home multiple speaker awards and were regarded by many as the smartest team in the nation,” said Worth, director of forensics and a senior lecturer in the School of Humanities.

For Worth’s commitment and efforts, the NPTE board named him its National Coach of the Year. “It was so unexpected,” he said. “I was chosen by my peers, people who themselves are incredible coaches. I am truly honored.”

Worth’s award wasn’t a surprise to Torres and Barton. “As a student in his rhetoric and communication classes, I see him masterfully make connections between difficult texts and daily life, enriching the learning process for all of his students,” Torres said. “He has provided indispensable guidance for honing our skills, developing our arguments and adopting a healthy attitude toward the activity, and he has fostered an inclusive, welcoming, fun and exciting environment in which the team has thrived,” Barton said.