Debate team falters at Northwestern University tournament

Richardson ranked 39th individual speaker in nation

3/8/05 gmt

HAYS, KS -- After placing among the top five debate teams in the nation, the Fort Hays State University powerhouse debate duo of Michael Richardson, Hutchinson senior, and Phil Bouska, Goddard sophomore, faltered at their most recent tournament.

Richardson, Bouska and student coach Paul Mabrey, Manhattan senior, competed against approximately 119 opposing squads at Northwestern University in Chicago, IL, for a mid-February tournament.

Debate coach and assistant professor of communication studies Dr. William Shanahan III called it "the biggest tournament of the semester and one of the most important of the year."

" This was one of the most heart-wrenching of my coaching career," he said.

Richardson and Bouska were tied for 23rd after the prelims, clearing to double octafinals with 31 other teams. In double octafinals, ties are broken on combined individual speaker performance and measured by points awarded by the judges during each of the preliminary debates. Points usually total between 320-340.

After the tie was broken, the duo were dropped to 33rd seed and missed clearing the round by 0.1 speaker points.

" Make no mistake about it, this was a fantastic tournament for Michael and Phil. They defeated Oregon, Redlands and Marquette on the first day of competition, losing only to Idaho State in a very controversial decision," Shanahan said.

The second day was more difficult, with the team losing to Northwestern -- one of the top 16 teams in the country. They were awarded a forfeit when two debaters from Iowa chose not to complete a debate, forcing the points to be averaged and dropping the team's total.

" We needed to win both of our last two debates," Shanahan said. "We immediately lost to Texas, but we thought that we could win the last debate and clear to elims. We then defeated Boston College in a genuine clash of debate cultures with Boston College reflecting reactionary conservatism and FHSU representing a somewhat more radical approach."

At the end of the round, Richardson was ranked 39th out of 240 debaters to compete.

" This is quite a strong showing for the team and for Michael, individually -- going into the last tournaments of the season, ranked 32 or 33 is exceptional, since this team keeps getting better each tournament they attend," Shanahan said.

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