Debate team boasts high ranking, hosts tournament at Washburn

ReAnne Utemark

After taking on top-ranked teams at Wyoming, William Jewell and Creighton the Washburn University debate squad has secured itself a top five spot in the nation among 280 active competing schools. The squad took top honors in sweepstakes at the Creighton tournament, beating reigning champion Western Kentucky.

The squad also hosted its home tournament, the Capitol City Fall Classic this past weekend. There were 23 teams competing in parliamentary debate and 25 competitors in Lincoln-Douglas debate from nine schools. In parliamentary debate Tyler Dooley and Jessica Otto finished second, Annaleigh Curtis and Marcus Schultz-Bergin were semifinalists, Joe Heschmeyer and Brandon Wentz were quarterfinalists, Joelle Jasper and Daniel Usera were quarterfinalists, and Tonya Stein and Alicia Phillips were partial octafinalists.

Dooley said making it to the final round was a nice turn of events for him and Otto, who haven’t made it that far in a tournament this year.

“We want to break that far at every tournament,” said Dooley, a freshman psychology major. “It was a nice experience, especially having the support of the squad behind us.”

At the LD tournament, Scott Abbott took second place, Stein was a semifinalist, and Rebecca Schmidt and Nathan Miller were partial octafinalists.

Jim Schnoebelen, assistant director of forensics, said the continued success of the debate team is for several reasons.

“Because of changes in directors, this is the first time we’ve had actual seniors,” said Schnoebelen. “Joe Heschmeyer and Tonya Stein’s senior leadership has played a role. We had a young squad last year, but now that they have been to nationals, they’ve gotten more experience.”

Schnoebelen also cited the addition of Steve Doubledee to the coaching staff has helped the debaters become more competitive in LD.

“We are very aware of how lucky our program is,” said Schnoebelen. “When some programs get a new dean, their funding gets cut. We are incredibly lucky to have a third coach, a large squad and the ability to travel as much as we do.”

The squad has qualified 13 students to the National Forensics Association Lincoln Douglas debate national tournament. To qualify, a debater must have broken into elimination rounds as one of the top 16 competitors at a tournament. If the Washburn squad qualifies five more students, they will enter 18 students in to the national tournament, the largest entry ever by a school, said Schnoebelen. The Washburn squad already holds this record from when it entered 14 students last year.

“I think we’ll do well, but I really think we’ll be in the top three,” said Schnoebelen. “I think it will be good for us.”

Even with its large numbers, the squad will still have to maintain quality, as the national tournament will only take the best four debaters from a squad when calculating sweepstakes.