Speech and Debate finishes off fifth in the nation

By GELSEY PLAZA

The Lewis & Clark debate team currently ranks fifth in the nation, according to the Nov. 17 rankings released by the National Parliamentary Debate Association.

Rankings change all the time as tournaments happen simultaneously around the country. LC held first in the nation when the Nov. 2 ranking were released. Still, holding the number one ranking for any period of time is significant. Hundreds of schools compete in the parliamentary debate annually, and it is usually around November when competing teams begin to rise to the top. According to Forensics Director, Joseph Gantt, “Our performance to this point indicates that we will be strong competitors at nationals in March.”

LC’s forensics team consists of twelve and eleven debaters and speech students, respectively. LC has three debate teams that are presently ranked among the top 30 in the nation: Hannah Mathieson ’17 and Sarah McDonagh ’18 are 6th, Carlton Bone ’18 and William Woods ’19 are 8th, and Taylor Knudson ’18 and Mikayla Parsons ’18 are 26th.

The debate team meets once a week together, but students participate in practice rounds and have individual sessions sporadically throughout the week.

“At times, it can be really hard to juggle my classwork and debate work,” Mathieson said. “However, the debate teams have some of my absolute best friends on it, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

These three teams have qualified for the season-ending National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence, which will be held from Mar. 13-16, 2016, at El Camino College in California. LC is the only school in the nation to have three teams qualified at this point in the season.

At the Linfield Mahaffey Memorial Speech and Debate Tournament, a recent tournament, all five teams made it to the elimination rounds, with Bone, Woods, McDonaugh, and Mathieson moving on to finals.

Working with a partner can sometimes make it difficult to schedule one-on-one practices with the coaches, but Woods maintains that his partner Bone is a source of support and inspiration.

“He has been a great mentor for me as I continue to transition into college debate and I wouldn’t be close to where I am without him,” Woods said.

The speech competitors on LC’s forensics team have also had many standout performances.

Three competitors have qualified for the National Individual Events Tournament, the final big speech tournament that will take place in April 2016 at the University of Florida and at Ball State University in Indiana.

Jacob Wisda ’18 was named the top overall competitor out of over 400 students at the San Francisco State tournament from Sept. 26-27.

“Being named top speaker resonated with me because it gave me something I could show to my team and say I wouldn’t have won without their support,” Wisda said. “What makes me happiest about winning top speaker was that I could provide a representation of Lewis & Clark Forensics that our team could be proud of.”

At the most competitive speech pool in the nation, Claire Crossman ’17 and Decker O’Donnell ’18 were standout competitors at the Bradley tournament from November 7-8. O’Donnell moved on to semifinals in Informative Speaking, while Crossman broke to quarterfinals in Prose Interpretation.

Many of the students, like Crossman, work multiple hours a week on each of their events, and even more before big tournaments.

“I know most of us were working with our coaches three hours a day, every day. It was definitely the best tournament experience I’ve ever had,” Crossman said.

Director of Forensics, Joe Gantt, believes that these high rankings speak to the talent, hard work, and dedication.

“I am very excited to see what this team can do in the spring,” Gantt said. “They never cease to amaze me.”

This is Gantt’s fourth year as Director of Forensics, and he loves the unique opportunity that a forensics education fosters.

“There is something different about traveling with students, collaborating about ideas and arguments, and working together toward a higher goal,” Gantt said. “I get to share in some of their happiest moments, and I get to be a mentor when things have not gone as well. I am a better scholar and person working with them.”

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