FHSU debate team joins ranks of national champions

HAYS, KS -- Fort Hays State University will celebrate another national championship at noon Friday, April 12, when the Tiger Debate Team is introduced at a reception in the Stouffer Lounge of the Memorial Union.

The team of Joe Ramsey, Sterling senior, and Jason Regnier, Salina senior, won the Cross-Examination Debate Association National Championship in Fullerton, CA, Tuesday night, topping their previous career-best performance of ninth place at the National Debate Tournament in Springfield, MO, only two weeks ago.

At Friday's victory celebration and reception, the debaters and their coach, Dr. William Shanahan, will be introduced and beverages and finger food will be served. Shanahan recognized the hard work of his debaters and the tremendous support from the university and community as large factors in making this championship possible.

"Four years ago, when I arrived at Fort Hays State, Ed Hammond informed me that, while he had given the coach at Louisville five years to win a national championship, he expected that I would bring one in four," Shanahan said. "I politely smiled and inwardly wondered what we could possibly do to meet such high expectations. Well, here it is four years later, and we have accomplished this immense task."

President Hammond, himself a debater in his college days, has long been a strong supporter of the debate program and was delighted by the team's accomplishments this year.

"I've always had confidence that Bill would meet this challenge," he said. "He and his debaters have done an outstanding job of representing FHSU, and it's wonderful to have a national championship to celebrate along with this year's Centennial Celebration. "I hope the campus and the larger community will come to the reception and help greet FHSU's newest national champions."

The cross-examination championship differs from the invitation-only National Debate Tournament by allowing all interested schools to compete. More than 200 teams competed in the four-day tournament hosted by the University of California-Fullerton. Ramsey and Regnier defeated 13 teams, including Emporia State University, Wake Forest, Stanford, Gonzaga, and three teams from Whitman College, on the way to their championship title.

For the final round, Ramsey and Regnier faced a powerhouse Michigan State team which had defeated FHSU in all four of their previous meetings this year, including a "heartbreaking" 1-2 loss at the National Debate Tournament two weeks ago. However, Fort Hays won the coin toss and was able to choose which side of the debate they were to defend. They chose to affirm the resolution, which concerned federal control throughout Indian territory.

"We had lost only one affirmative debate the entire second semester," said Dr. William Shanahan, head debate coach. But of this meeting he said, "We believed that the round was in our grasp."

The championship debate lasted two hours; the judges required another hour to reach their decision: a 5-4 win for FHSU. "Joe and Jason performed magnificently," Shanahan said. "All of the judges commented on the high quality of this debate." Ramsey and Regnier were also honored with individual speaker awards, placing fifth and eighth, respectively. FHSU's other team of Brent Saindon, Wichita senior, and Paul Mabrey, Manhattan junior, both placed in the top 30 in speaker awards and tied for 17th as a team.

It was a thrilling ending to an outstanding career for Ramsey, who will graduate this year with a degree in political science. He has accepted a graduate teaching/coaching assistantship at San Diego State University in the fall. "Very few debaters actually win their last debate," Shanahan said. "We are thrilled that Joe was able to do so. His growth, drive and commitment have been staggering over the past four years."

Dr. Carrol Haggard, chair of the Department of Communication, also acknowledged FHSU's strong showing as the culmination of years of hard work by Shanahan and his students. Since Shanahan took over as debate coach in 1998, his debaters have received national recognition, literally turning around FHSU's debate program. "This caps off the achievements that have been accomplished over the last four years," Haggard said. "It also speaks well for the future, as the FHSU style of debating has received acceptance in the debate community.

"Bill has had a significant role in transforming the nature of college debate. Thus the national championship is all the more meaningful -- it wasn't just winning, but winning the FHSU way."

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