Guest post by Steven Farias, Associate Director of Forensics, Speech and Debate Team
Ask most college students about their spring break plans and you are liable to get a litany of responses all centered around enjoying a weeklong rest from school. Ask any college debater about their spring break plans and you will receive the same response every time — “What is spring break?” This is because spring break for college debaters is their last opportunity to prepare for upcoming national tournaments as those tournaments most often occur immediately after the break.
This year, members of Pacific’s Speech and Debate (Forensics) Team spent the entire week working on files and debating topics that ranged from radical changes to the U.S. tax code to free speech laws in the European Union. In five days, they produced 30 files, had 15 back-to-back debates, and left for Kansas City, Kansas, knowing that they would continue to edit files and commit time to preparing for nationals. Not to mention that they also had assignments and professors with whom they had to stay in contact. “These student-competitors emotionally invested valuable time and commitment into each other’s success, and while their work ethic should receive its own recognition, it is the time and commitment that led to their overwhelming success at this year’s national tournaments,” said Dr. Marlin C. Bates IV, director of Forensics. “I have immense pride in these students and their success.”
The first competition was the National Parliamentary Debate Association’s National Tournament, an open invitational held March 14-17 at Kansas City Kansas Community College and consisting of 150 teams from 47 schools. However, before the race for a national championship could begin, the tournaments opening ceremony featured a festive, non-competitive debate between three top debaters from the United States and three national champions from Ireland. In this debate, Pacific Forensics’ competitor Katherine Earley was chosen from her fellow competitors to negate the topic: The United States nuclear agreement with Iran does more harm than good.
Although she and her colleagues would lose to the Irish, over the next three days she and her teammates from Pacific would demonstrate that they were up for the challenge. Pacific competitors Jonathan Bruce and Evan Haynes finished 5-3 in the preliminary rounds and finished in the top 50 teams in the elimination rounds. Earley and her partner Reed Ramsey would go 6-2 in the preliminary rounds and finished in the top 25 teams in elimination rounds. Earley was also named an All-American recipient for her combination of academic achievement, community connection and competitive success. Overall, it was a solid level of success for the team, but they were hungry to do better.
The team competed the following weekend at the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence, held March 20-22 at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri. This national tournament is unique as teams are required to qualify throughout the year in order to compete at the tournament. Comprised of the top 68 teams per national rankings before the tournament, the NPTE is considered to be a more grueling tournament as every team debated is nationally competitive. Entering the tournament, Earley and Ramsey were ranked 27th with an 80 percent preliminary round winning percentage, while Bruce and Haynes were ranked 24th with a 75 percent preliminary round winning percentage. These were the highest rankings achieved in the regular season by any two teams from Pacific since 2012.
Both teams made it into the third of eight elimination rounds. Earley and Ramsey ended up ranked 23rd in the nation, while Bruce and Haynes were ranked 18th overall in the nation. Bruce was also recognized for his individual success as the 12th best debater in the nation based on his performance at the tournament. These were the best results for a Pacific Forensics squad at the national tournament since 2010.
After spending more than a week in the Midwest, these competitors returned home to Stockton and immediately began preparing with their other teammates for the 2015 National Forensics Association Championship in Athens, Ohio, from April 15-20. However, Associate Director of Forensics Steven Kalani Farias hopes that these students do not dismiss their accomplishments. “Coming from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, I had an idea of the system I wanted to implement in preparing for the national tournaments,” Farias said. “SIU has won four championships and been in five final rounds over the last four years, so I knew the system would work — it was only a question of these students buying into the process.”
Farias thinks that this year’s team has cemented a foundation that will see Pacific win a national championship in the near future.“I know they wanted to do better, and each one of them will tell you that. However, even though they have yet to come home with a championship, they have embodied the work ethic and attitude that Dr. Bates and I have hoped to foster in them as competitors: That through a commitment to hard work and ethical, competitive practices, they can achieve national prominence along with a greater satisfaction from competition.”As the team prepares for their next nationals, they will try to mimic the commitment levels and increase their overall success.
Visit the Speech and Debate (Forensics) Team webpage for more information: http://www.pacific.edu/Academics/Schools-and-Colleges/College-of-the-Pacific/Academics/Departments-and-Programs/Communication/Discover-Communication/Speech-and-Debate-(Forensics)-Team.html