After Gorlok success, speech and debate is ready to reclaim national title


by Emma Schlenker, Social Media Editor

INDIANOLA, Iowa — The Simpson College Speech and Debate successfully competed at the Scott Jensen Gorlok tournament in St. Louis at Webster University.  The team placed third overall and second in debate in a field of 36 colleges and universities. 

These awards didn’t come as much of a shock to the team, considering all the hard work they have put in.

Sarah Baker, a junior and the Public Forum undergraduate assistant, was public forum debate champion and won first place in duo improv for a second year in a row.

“We were extremely prepared for this tournament,” Baker said. “Basically, we were the most prepared team there and the most well researched. We work really hard, so we win.”

Junior Bobbi Fogle was a quarterfinalist in parliamentary debate and placed 15th in open parliamentary debate. She noted the team’s unique relationship with one another and pride in team over self as being contributing factors to their  success.

“Everyone’s put in a lot of work and put their best effort forward. When you ask a member of the team how the tournament went, they will give you the team results before they give you the individual results,” Fogle said.

Senior Kelsey Schott was a quarterfinalist in parliamentary debate and placed third in open parliamentary debate. With this being her fourth year, she has watched the team grow and more people join so they are better prepared.

“We flood the field as much as we can, and we want as many teams to compete as we can,” Schott said.

Freshman Daniel Estrada placed second in novice Lincoln Douglas Debate.  While this is his first year debating, Estrada has already acclimated to the competition environment.

“I felt we did really well this weekend, I had fun,” Estrada said. “This one really prepared me for nationals because it was a lot harder competition.”

“We all do individual events but at the end it’s about how many points we can pull for the entire team,” he said.

Spencer Waugh, the head debate coach, said this tournament is half the size of the national competition.

“It is the largest tournament we go to with the exception of nationals, so it is generally our measuring stick to see if we are ready to go to that big of a tournament and be competitive,” said Waugh.

Moving forward, Fogle and Baker both feel the team is set to take back the national debate championship after placing second last year.  Due to the growth of the team, they feel confident that this goal is attainable.

“My first year we took one bus to nationals, this year we are taking two buses,” Fogle said.

“We have a lot of first-years who have never debated. A lot of us doing well is attributed to them doing well and trying new things,” Baker said.

Geoff Van Deusen, a freshman with prior debate experience, placed fifth in junior varsity Lincoln Douglas Debate and was an octofinalist in Lincoln Douglas debate.  Even though he debated in high school, he said college competition is forcing him to step up his game.

“It’s going to be a lot harder since I will be in a different division, but I am getting really prepared with Spencer,” Van Deusen said.  

Other freshmen are figuring out the ropes as they go. Freshman Jailyn Seabrooks placed eighth in novice parliamentary debate, despite this being her first debate tournament.  

“I really enjoy it,” she said. “It was the first time I have gotten to experience it, but I definitely see myself doing more debate in the future, and I am going to compete in debate at the national tournament in Tennessee in a couple months.”

Since this is Schott’s last year on the team, she looked back at her first year, when she happened to walk into a debate practice and “never left.”  She said anyone can join the team and compete, and that her experience on the team has been her favorite part of being at Simpson.

“I love being on the team, I love all the people on the team, I love the coaching staff. When I look back on the last four years, my greatest memories are being on the speech and debate team,” Schott said.

The speech and debate coaches have cultivated an environment to help students now and in their futures beyond Simpson.

“We have a lot of first years in all the debate events, as well as some of the speech events as well. Hopefully, it is becoming a part of their Simpson experience,” Waugh said.

Waugh said debate develops critical thinking and confidence-building while teaching students to be a part of something bigger.  

“I want them to see what we are doing in competition to be a stepping stone to getting into the grad school of their choice or be able to look back and say that set of experiences helped me get that first job,” Waugh said.

This mindset is essential to the team atmosphere, especially considering how much time they spend together.

“The team dynamic is very close knit and friendly, even though we are a very big team. It’s not competitive, you don’t have to fight for spots to compete. If you want to try it, you can, you have that freedom,” Fogle said.

Waugh said this team is different from others because it is not as competitive within the team. Therefore, “they are under a lot of pressure to learn, to become better human beings,” he said. “They aren’t competing with each other.”

“I really like how we spend so much time together because of the long bus rides, so you get to know people,” Seabrooks said.

And of course, Speech and debate students are prepared for their careers and lives after Simpson.

“We teach a lot of life skills while building a resume,” said Waugh.

“Public speaking is necessary in any career these days,” Fogle said. “Communication skills and critical thinking skills allow you to be very analytical.  To be able to look at the world and analyze it and think critically about it rather than just accepting it as true.”

Even in his first year, Estrada said, “It’s helped me be more articulate, meet a lot more people and branch out.”

“The goal of the team is to become better people, learn some stuff and of course it’s always fun if we win some titles along the way,” Baker said.