Debate team extends win streak
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2013 19:02
After a nearly flawless season, four members of the ASU debate team will be taking their A-game overseas next week as they travel to Antwerp, Belgium for the International Forensics Association’s annual speech and debate tournament.
Team member Micah Christensen, a junior communication studies major of Cheyenne, Wy., said the team’s most recent victory at Louisiana State University was an illustration of the success the team has experienced all season. “We didn’t just win LSU, we really won LSU,” Christensen said. “Not only did we win all the rounds but we also won all five of the top speaking positions.”
Christensen’s debate partner Ken Corbit, a senior communication studies major of Jonesboro, added to the list of ASU’s victories, and said “Not only did we win every tournament this year, but every tournament we went to we got the top speaker award, which means that we are handling ourselves in a way that ASU can be proud of.”
The debate team has experienced similar winning seasons before but not at the level they are achieving now, according to Christensen. “It’s not rare for ASU to be this successful, but it’s rare for ASU to be so successful at this caliber, above and beyond just winning,” he said.
The competitors will leave for Europe March 7, giving them time for a brief stop to tour Amsterdam before competition begins on the 10th. The tournament will include individual speech contests in the styles of impromptu, entertainment, poetry, prose, dramatic, and rhetorical critique, as well as two-person team debates such as parliamentary procedure, according to Corbit.
“This year will be the largest tournament they’ve ever had,” Corbit said. “There were over 200 (competitors) last year, so I would venture to say there are going to be a minimum of 20-25 states represented, and 200 people coming to compete.”
Competition will conclude on the 12th with a banquet sponsored by the host city of Antwerp in honor of the participants. “The banquet is the culmination of (the tournament),” Corbit said. “On the last night, they will recognize the winners and present the awards, and the mayor will come and give a speech. They’ve really got a whole bunch of things planned just for that night, which is really exciting.”
The competition will likely be even more challenging than the ones typically faced here in the states, according to Christensen. “These tournaments are going to be more of what the schools consider to be their elite. Not everyone’s going to be able to go, because it’s an expensive trip,” he said.
“We took four (competitors) last year, and we’ll take four again this year,” Corbit said. “Traditionally the ones you will have there are the elites of the program being represented. For us, it’s our top two varsity teams.”
“Debate programs range in size, smaller programs may only have two or three teams (of two people), so they’re only able to travel with maybe six competitors,” Christensen said. “But other schools will have 13 teams, 12 teams, 10 teams, so they’re traveling with 20 to 26 people.”
Corbit said there are a lot of advantages to being able to participate in the tournament. “Being exposed to some of the brightest young minds of an entire nation is very cool,” he said.
“The goal of debate is to learn topics, and what better way to learn about a country than being there and experiencing it,” Corbit said. “For instance, when we’re there, most of the debates and speeches will be specific to that country.”
“Right now, we’re studying Belgium history, Belgium integration problems, politics, and the economics of what’s going on,” Corbit said. “When we get there, we will probably know more about Belgium than the people in Belgium know about it!”
Preparation is key to succeeding in debate, according to team member Benton Bajorek, a sophomore communication studies major of Conway. “It’s no fun going in there blind,” he said. “We’ve all been doing research about the country and then presenting it to the debaters as a whole, so that way we can kind of get a little bit knowledgeable about the country before we go.”
“But even if we don’t debate about these topics, at least we’ve learned about these things,” Bajorek said. “The sport of debate is all about educating yourself.”
Christensen agrees. “Debate is really a game of chess you play in your mind.”
“It may sound really dull and boring, but to spar intellectually with someone, and to have that competitive element too, it’s pretty cool,” Corbit said.
Also competing for ASU in Antwerp will be senior political science major Clint Simpson of Jonesboro, Bajorek’s debate partner. “We’ve cooperated a lot more as a team this year, and gotten a lot more knowledgeable about competitions,” Bajorek said.
Christensen said the team’s success starts with having good people in the program, and could not be possible without the support of the university-level leadership. “The IFA tournament, it’s huge because some colleges don’t have the support to even be able to do it,” Christensen said.
“The type of support we are getting from our administration is priceless,” Corbit said. “We would be remiss if we did not tip our hat and let those who are supporting us know how much we appreciate it.”
With the support of the university and a solid winning streak behind them, Corbit thinks the chances of an ASU victory are looking pretty good. “I’m not saying that out of arrogance. We’ve been on a roll,” he said.
“We’re going there with the idea of enjoyment, but we’re going to win,” Corbit said. “That’s our focus.”