LRCH's Williams & Woods Finish Second, Make History

Picture of Central senior debaters Darrin Williams and Payton Woods After unprecedented success since September, Little Rock Central senior debaters Darrin Williams and Payton Woods have again made history. Williams and Woods placed second to Highland Park (MN) Bannister and Dill at the 2016 Tournament of Champions (TOC). Payton Woods snagged the coveted Top Speaker award in a field of 160 individual speakers. Williams placed 17th in this highly competitive field.

They are the first African American team to compete in the final round of the TOC in the tournament's 45-year history. Woods is only the third African American to win Top Speaker. They are the first team in Arkansas history to have ever competed in the elimination rounds of the TOC, and only the third Arkansas team to ever compete at the tournament.

Williams and Woods descended on Lexington, KY this weekend with one goal: to make it to the final round. The Tournament of Champions (TOC) has for many decades been the most prestigious national championship in the country for high school debate. Long considered the Kentucky Derby of policy debate, the TOC draws the most elite competition from around the country, where competitors must first survive the rigors of qualifying to the tournament throughout the season. Williams and Woods finished with a 5-2 record in prelims, securing themselves a spot in the Octafinal Round (top 16 teams), defeating Hendrickson WW on a 3-0 decision. Their Quarterfinal matchup was Rowland Hall GL, the second seed in the tournament and a favorite to win the TOC. After a hard-fought debate, Williams and Woods emerged victorious to face Peninsula TW in the Semifinal Round. After an hour of deliberation, Williams and Woods were announced as the team advancing to the Final Round of the TOC.

 

The final debate against Highland Park BD was watched by over 2,600 people online. Though Highland ultimately took home the title, Williams' and Woods' Final Round appearance was an important victory in and of itself for public school debate programs, Arkansas, and the national debate circuit. Williams will debate for Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC, and Woods for Baylor University in Waco, TX.

Williams and Woods are coached by Rosie Valdez, and assisted by Anthony Joseph of UMKC, Alden Connor and Sam Gustavson of Baylor University, and John Block.