Speech and debate claims second at Gorlok


Freshman Danielle Blake and sophomore Casey Spring were one of two Simpson teams to be named JV Parliamentary debate champions. Photo submitted by Simpson Speech and Debate

by Randy Paulson, Editor-In-Chief

Simpson College’s speech and debate team started the new year off strong with a second place finish at the Gorlok Gala tournament, which took place Jan. 25-27 at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri.

Spencer Waugh, director of Simpson’s speech and debate program, said the team beat 41 other colleges to secure the second place spot in total points from speech and debate events, placing behind Boise State University.

Simpson also ranked second in terms of points earned only from debate events: The team earned 196 points, putting it just behind Hillsdale College’s win of 210.

“The Gorlok is the largest tournament we go to apart from nationals,” Waugh said.

He said much of the college’s squad consisted of younger competitors who are in their first or second year at Simpson.

“So these are students who had either some high school experience or a couple semesters of college experience,” he said. “And then we didn’t have a lot on the varsity or open side.”

Simpson College’s speech and debate team beat 41 other teams to claim a second place finish at the Gorlok Gala tournament, which took place Jan. 25-27 at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri. Photo submitted by Simpson Speech and Debate

Four of Simpson’s junior varsity Parliamentary debaters closed out in that category, with sophomores Geoffrey Van Deusen, Michael Roets, Casey Spring and freshman Danielle Blake advancing to the final round.

Van Deusen and Roets defeated the University of Illinois in their semi-final round on a 3-0 decision by judges, while Spring and Blake beat Hillsdale College in that round also on a 3-0 decision, according to Waugh in a press release.

Since the debate pairs were all from the same school, they did not compete against each other. Instead, all four debaters were declared JV Parliamentary champions.

Blake said that since it was her and Spring’s first time participating in Parliamentary debate, their main goal going into the tournament was to win at least one round.

“Because we really just wanted to learn how to do it,” Blake said. “We weren’t expecting to get as far as we did. So it felt good to get as far as we did.”

Several of Simpson’s older debaters also advanced to the elimination rounds in the Public Forum and varsity Parliamentary debate categories.

Senior Lydia Magalhães and junior Jake Stoulil won all four of their preliminary debate rounds in Public Forum. They later emerged as semi-finalists, advancing further than Simpson’s other debaters in that category.

“The expectations, I think, were high going in,” Stoulil said of the whole debate team, “just given that we’ve done really well in the past there, and we’ve done really well at nationals in the past.”

Stoulil also advanced to the semi-final round in varsity Parliamentary debate with his partner Coby Berg, a Simpson junior.

The topic for Public Forum debate was, “Resolved: The United States should rejoin UNESCO as a full member.” UNESCO stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, a specialized agency within the United Nations.

However, the topic for Parliamentary debate changed each round, with debaters having 20 minutes to prepare their side of the topic.

Stoulil said the Parliamentary topics ranged from debating the pros and cons of trigger warnings in college classrooms to current events such as the Venezuelan government crisis and the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union.

Senior Lydia Magalhães and junior Jake Stoulil went 4-0 in their preliminary rounds of Public Forum debate. They advanced to semi-finals. Photo submitted by Simpson Speech and Debate

Simpson’s speech competitors also saw success at the Gorlok tournament. Junior Kylie Burmeister placed sixth in Program Oral Interpretation (POI), an event where competitors create a short performance which revolves around a common theme or topic. POI competitors can combine passages from various media such as poems, articles, songs, literature, movies and television for their performance.

Burmeister said her POI piece was about strong women finding healthy relationships while not giving up the part of themselves that makes them strong and gives them their identity.

“The judges in my prelim rounds really liked my piece,” she said. “And yeah, I never expected to break with it just because that tournament is one of the hardest ones.”

For her POI, Burmeister said she used parts of a song by country singer Lauren Alaina; sections from author Tamora Pierce’s fantasy series, “The Song of the Lioness”; quotes from comic Iliza Shlesinger’s Netflix stand-up comedy special, “Elder Millennial”; and quotes from the TV show, “Private Practice.”

Burmeister said she plans to continue working to make her POI stronger for the Pi Kappa Delta National Tournament, which will take place in New York City in March.

The rest of the team also views the Gorlok tournament as a way to prepare for the national tournament in their respective speech and debate categories. Waugh said the team is feeling good about their prospects for the national tournament at this point, despite the change in geography that will come with the tournament and facing new schools.

“Our team is as diverse as it was last year,” Waugh said, “and so we are feeling pretty optimistic.”

Senior Sarah Baker, who has competed in debate since her freshman year, said this year’s Gorlok tournament prepared the team well for nationals, particularly in Public Forum.

“Now, we have everything, like all the arguments that will be used at nationals, and so now we’re just doing extra preparation,” she said.

Senior Sarah Baker earned second place in speaker points for Public Forum debate. Photo submitted by Simpson Speech and Debate

Baker did not advance to elimination rounds at the Gorlok as she has done in the past, but she did earn a second place speaker award in Public Forum. She said she was still happy to see the success of her teammates who did advance, such as Stoulil and Magalhães.

Baker is one of the few seniors currently on the speech and debate team, and she said saying goodbye will be hard for her after this semester.

“I know it’s going to be really hard to leave the team, especially because debate has been my life at Simpson for the past four years.”