CWI Speech and Debate Team Dominates and Makes History Once Again

Published: February 1, 2023

College of Western Idaho’s (CWI) Speech and Debate team has, once again, made history! Preparing to wrap up a successful forensics competition season, the team was recognized as the top Northwest Forensics Conference (NFC) school in debate for the 2022-2023 season. This marks the first time a community college has been awarded this honor and the first time a community college was honored with any NFC Presidential Award.

Over the weekend, the team competed in the 50th Annual Michael Dugaw Smelt Classic at Lower Columbia College in Longview, Washington, where they took home first place in their division and continued their winning tradition as a Gold Community College Program in the Northwest. The tournament served as the final of three designated tournaments in the NFC. Scores across the designated tournaments are tallied to determine top programs in forensics, culminating in NFC awards each January.

Programs are awarded Presidential Awards based on cumulative, season-long points in the categories of speech and debate events, which resulted in CWI being recognized as the top NFC school in debate among all schools in the NFC, including four-year universities.

Individually, CWI students were recognized with 16 different awards at the Smelt Classic.

Speech Awards

Novice Impromptu — Alex Norris (third place)

Junior After Dinner Speaking —Terrence Sharrer (sixth place)

Open Dramatic Interpretation — Elijah Charlton (sixth place)

Novice Extemporaneous — Kennedy Carr (sixth place)

Junior Extemporaneous — Trace Van Sickle (second place), Kevin Chase (fourth place)

Novice Persuade — Sam Easley (fifth place)

Open Programmatic Oral Interpretation — Alli Koetsier (fourth place)

International Public Debate Association (IPDA) Debate Awards

Novice Division — William Guerrero (quarterfinalist)

Junior Division — Alex Norris (semifinalist), Trace Van Sickle (quarterfinalist)

Novice IPDA Speaker — Will Guerrero (sixth place)

Junior IPDA Speaker — Alex Norris (ninth place), Joe Nigro (fifth place), and Trace Van Sickle (first place)

Open IPDA Speaker — Oliver Heaviside (ninth place)

In addition to the team's success, their coach and CWI Director of Forensics, Luke Yeates, received the NFC Judge Educator Award, which is given each year to coaches who provide superb feedback to competitors.

“I’m overwhelmed and beyond proud. Awards like these only come from continuous work and a steadfast dedication to the craft, and the Presidential Award reflects exactly that — a season of incredible success," said Yeates. "What we do takes immense effort, but every team on the circuit puts in that effort. The fact a community college could be in the running for an award that has only ever been won by four-year institutions is impressive enough, but to earn it outright is a different level altogether. The fact that it has never been done before speaks to how unrealistic this should have been. It will take me a while to process what it is this group of students has accomplished, but I will never forget the way I felt when I watched them take first this weekend.”

CWI Speech and Debate will now get ready for the International Public Debate Association (IPDA) Nationals hosted at Boise State University held March 23 – 25. Following that, the team will head to Washington D.C. to compete in the Phi Ro Pi Nationals in April.

For those with questions, or in need of more information about CWI’s Speech and Debate team, contact Luke Yeates at

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