Shortly after their return to Hays on Jan. 20, Dr. William Shanahan III, debate coach and assistant professor of communications studies, announced that the FHSU debate team had "definitely arrived."
The team of Michael Richardson, Hutchinson senior, Phil Bouska, Goddard sophomore, and student coach Paul Mabrey, Manhattan senior, competed against 53 other teams during a first-tier national tournament Jan. 14-18 at the State University of West Georgia.
" Almost every elite team across the nation was there and there was virtually no middle or bottom," Shanahan said.
" The first day was truly difficult and left us reeling a bit," he said.
The team lost their first round to Michigan State, a team they had easily beaten last year. After receiving a bye -- an automatic advancement to the next round -- due to the uneven number of teams, Richardson and Bouska won a difficult round against Wake Forest -- a perennially top-ranked national program -- and lost the day's final competition to George Washington University.
" The 2-2 competition day left us all wanting and hungry for the next day's competition," Shanahan said.
The second day began with two consecutive victories, against Emory University and Concordia University.
" This Emory team had beaten us in our break at Harvard last semester, ruining our chances of clearing to the elimination rounds there, so this victory was particularly sweet," Shanahan said. "The Concordia squad is extremely innovative and match up well. They are our long-time allies in the community, making the victory bittersweet."
With a 4-2 win-loss record, Richardson and Bouska competed against Dartmouth College, a challenger that Shanahan calls one of the best teams in the country. After successfully defeating the "Ivy league powerhouse," the FHSU squad debated another Wake Forest team and lost, having the judges declare their style too radical. Richardson and Bouska cleared the preliminary round with a 5-3 win-loss record.
" We began the elimination day just thrilled to be competing with 15 of the very best teams in the country," Shanahan said. "We again debated Emory and again heard the rap that our style of debating was inappropriate and ill-conceived."
Originally seeded 14th in the elimination rounds, FHSU was moved to the third seed after beating Emory. The duo lost to another Dartmouth team.
Richardson and Bouska finished fifth out of the 53 teams.
" This tournament marks the true emergence of Michael and Phil as a top-level, nationally competitive debate team, approaching the success of some of the top teams in FHSU's recent past," Shanahan said.