Speech & Debate team wins nationals third time in four years


Photo by Marty Feeney

by Alyssa Craven, Video Editor

Simpson College’s debate team took the top spot in debate points the Pi Kappa Delta National Debate Championship at Hofstra University in New York City last week.

The team took third place in overall speech and debate points in a field of 77 other schools around the country.

“I knew it was close, so I was surprised,” said Spencer Waugh, head debate coach. “Last year, we had such a dominating performance in preliminary rounds that it wasn’t really a surprise. We knew going to awards that we had probably won the overall award.”

Waugh said one factor that helped tip the scales in favor of the team was their strong performance in the elimination rounds.

Junior Kelli Ruth and first-year Foxx Harrington were national champions in the Open Parliamentary debate category and sophomores Michael Roets and Geoffrey Van Deusen were national champions in Junior Varsity Parliamentary.

Ruth said her experience at a prior tournament helped prepare her and Harrington for the national tournament since it reflected what the competition was going to be like.

 “So we had the same kind of competitors and judges,” she said. “Since we were able to win before at a prep tournament then it was indicative that if we performed as well at the national level then we would win.”

Several individuals on the team won awards at nationals: Danielle Blake and Coby Berg were semi-finalists in Public Forum debate. Kylie Doupnik was awarded an Excellence award in Novice Individual Parliamentary debate and also finished as a national runner-up in Novice Lincoln Douglas debate. Faithyna Leonard, Belle Ward and Bobbi Fogle received an Excellence award in Discussion. Andrew Dunn, Casey Spring,  Sarah Baker and Ben Sebastian received an Excellence award in Public Forum. Kimberly Roberts and Andrew Dun were quarter-finalists in Junior Varsity Parliamentary Debate. Excellence Novice Parliamentary was awarded to Noah Trujillo and Eimear Fanthrope. Lexy Moran and Bobbi Fogle received Student Congress Presiding Officer Awards. Bobbi Fogle also won Superior Senator.

The speech team also placed a strong showing at the tournament, placing ninth out of the 77 other schools.

“Three years ago on the speech side, we tried to have speech gain its own strength,” said Deano Pape, head speech coach. “Try to make it significant and impactful and to be able to make it as competitive one day as the debate side of things is.”

Multiple speech students took home awards: Melanie Gillet won Excellence in After Dinner Speaking; Sarah Baker won Excellence in Broadcast Journalism; Taylor Williams and Douglas Roberts won Excellence in Duo and Superior Events Showcase; Elise Sturgeon, Lydia Magalhaes, Lexy Moran and Bobbi Fogle won Excellence in Interview.

The team drove the 22 hours to New York and back for the tournament, which Waugh said saved money.

“It also saved the college money on hotel on both ends of the trip,” he said. “If we had flown, we would have needed an extra hotel room both there and back. But the students didn’t complain very much.”

During the trip, many students had time to explore New York City.

“Depending on their schedule, some of them had half day breaks where they weren’t competing,” Waugh said. “So, most of the students were able to spend at least a half day in the city.”

With the season over the team is already thinking of ways they can improve for the future.

“We need to figure out how to appeal to a broader judging panel,” Waugh said. “If we could have figured out a way to do one additional east coast tournament ahead of nationals, we could have figured out the judging paradigms.”

Since Simpson won nationals again, Waugh said there is a lot of pressure to continue next year, when the national tournament will be in San Diego.