Speech and Debate Team Makes History in Portland

Published: October 14, 2022

College of Western Idaho's (CWI) Speech and Debate team are celebrating big after making history and earning an unprecedented victory at the Steve Hunt Classic Tournament at Lewis and Clark College in Portland this past weekend.

CWI won the Division 3 title at the tournament, and for the first time in the College's Speech and Debate team's history, they beat the entire debate field regardless of division.

Competitive speech and debate tournaments break its award system down into divisions. While all teams from all institutions compete against each other throughout the tournament, team awards are often separated by school size. For example, Division 1 usually see large, four-year institutions compete. Community colleges, such as CWI, are in Division 3, which helps smaller programs measure their success against more comparable teams.

"Not only is this unprecedented in the history of the team itself, but it is also unprecedented in the history of the tournament," said Assistant Professor of Communication, and Director of Forensics, Luke Yeates. "Across our region no community college has won in overall debate at a designated tournament in well over a decade. Additionally, when including speech events into the total, CWI placed first in their division but also third overall regardless of division. This level of success is so rare for a two-year program to achieve that within hours of the announcement other programs were reaching out to congratulate the competitors on their success."

The team excelled in the debate portion of the tournament where their novice division was able to accomplish something special — all five of the novice debaters from CWI who attended the tournament, placed in the top five of the division.

CWI Geography student, Alex Norris, was the tournament champion and finished in first place, while History student, Trace Van Sickle, earned second place. Both History student, Sam Easley, and Communication student, Kelly O’Dowd, earned the two semifinalist positions, and Business student, Elijah Charlton, earned fifth place.

"This is called a closeout, where the top finishers are all from the same team," Yeates said. "This happens occasionally at the finalist level where the top two debaters will be from the same school, but only rarely does a team close out at the semifinalist level. CWI just did.”

Norris, Van Sickle, and Easley each had undefeated records for the length of the tournament, going 5-0 in preliminaries.

In the Junior division, Political Science student, Kevin Chase, took home a Semifinalist spot, finishing within the top four. Both Business student, Terrence Howard, and Engineering student, Oliver Heaviside, earned quarterfinalist finishes as well.

Debate rounds are judged in two different ways, a win/loss record, and speaker points, which is a ranking of your rhetorical and logical speaking skill during round.

In the novice division Norris again earned first, Van Sickle took second, Easley took third, O’Dowd took fifth, and Charlton took ninth.

In the junior division Sharrer, took home second place, Chase earned fourth, and Heaviside earned eighth.

In speech awards, CWI's top performer was Liberal Arts student, Joe Nigro, took home top novice for their informative speech. This speech also took second place in the junior division.

Additionally, Van Sickle earned first in novice impromptu speaking.  In novice extemporaneous speaking, Sharrer earned second place, Norris took home third, and Easley won fourth.

In Junior extemporaneous, Heaviside won the division with a first-place finish, and Chase earned fifth overall.

CWI's Speech and Debate team walked away from the tournament with a total of nine first place finishes across individual and team awards.

"It’s hard to explain how monumental this performance was to people outside of the speech and debate community," Yeates said. "As their coach I want them to find success, but that success will only come from hours and hours of work outside of class, outside of practice. So much of what they do is self-motivated, and without those elements none of this success would have been possible. This small community college team has eyes for trophies that should be beyond them, and that hunger will take them far. It already has."

For those with questions, or in need of more information, contact Luke Yeates at lukeyeates@cwi.edu.

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