FHSU debaters finish season with strong performances

Fort Hays State University debaters finished their 2003-04 season April 2-5 with a 17th-place tie in the National Debate Tournament at Catholic University, Washington, DC.

"Michael Richardson and Paul Mabrey again demonstrated that they were one of the best teams in the country, despite debating together for only part of the spring semester," said Debate Coach Dr. Bill Shanahan, assistant professor of communication studies.

Mabrey, Manhattan senior, and Richardson, Hutchinson junior, finished the preliminary rounds with a 5-3 win-loss record, defeating Southwest Missouri State University, Dartmouth, Miami (Ohio), Liberty, and the University of North Texas, while losing to three teams ranked in the top 16 in the nation entering the tournament -- Texas, Berkeley and Northwestern.

Mabrey and Richardson were seeded 18th entering the single-elimination rounds, and were the only team from Kansas to make it that far.

In the elimination rounds, FHSU debated another Texas team and another in the top 16.

Shanahan said that the final loss in the debate took the five judges nearly an hour to decide (the debate round itself, he said, takes just over 90 minutes).

"We lost a 2-3 decision and were very close to winning each of the three judges' ballots that we lost," he said.

"This was the last round of Paul's debate career," said Shanahan, "and, according to all accounts, gave one of the best speeches of his life to finish the debate. I was listening outside the door and can confirm that Paul had become one of the best debaters in the country and demonstrated it resoundingly in that debate."

Mabrey was ranked the 24th individual speaker out of 156 at the tournament.

"Since the NDT represents only the very best, both Paul's individual accomplishment and Michael and Paul's team accolade are very impressive -- FHSU was one of only 14 schools in the country to post top-20 performances at both CEDA nationals and the NDT.

Earlier this spring, at the Cross Examination Debate Association nationals in Louisville, KY, Mabrey was recognized as the 11th-place individual speaker out of almost 400.

"Mabrey accomplished a truly extraordinary feat," said Shanahan. "This represents a career performance for this K-State transfer in this, his third and final year competing for Fort Hays State."

The CEDA national tournament is an open-entry tournament, which does not require any qualification to attend, and is thus the most well-attended tournament of the year, said Shanahan.

The team of Mabrey and Richardson was seeded 15th out of almost 200 teams with a 6-2 record after the eight preliminary rounds. They defeated Vermont, Liberty, Kansas City, Kansas, Community College, West Georgia, Whitman and Georgia while losing to Emory University twice. They received a bye in the first single-elimination round and then defeated California State, Long Beach, in the round of 64.

"This was an important debate, since we had lost to Long Beach in a couple of important debates earlier in the year," said Shanahan.

Mabrey and Richardson debated another Emory team in the round of 32 and lost an extremely close decision -- the third loss to Emory of the tournament, said Shanahan, who added, "It should be noted that Emory went on to win the tournament."

"FHSU's tie for 17th represents a solid finish, given the number of teams and the strength of competition to whom we lost," said Shanahan.

"Paul and Michael have overcome extreme difficulties during the season. There was a dramatic shake-up for the top team of Paul and a transfer from Weber State University, who were the top team for most of the year until the transfer quit suddenly and returned to Utah. Michael was thrown into the role of debating on the top team and Paul was forced to change speaker positions, a very difficult task mid-season. Both have risen to the challenge and performed magnificently, representing 'the Fort' extremely well."

At the Northwest CEDA championship tournament at Puget Sound University, Tacoma, WA, in early March, Mabrey and Richardson compiled a 4-2 record in the preliminary debates, losing only to the top teams from Whitman and Gonzaga. They defeated Southern Illinois University in the quarterfinal debate and then prepared for second chances against the two teams who had beaten them in the preliminary rounds.

Despite the name of this tournament, said Shanahan, teams outside of the region are invited to compete.

"Though given the level of our success here, that might change next year," he said. They defeated Whitman, the pre-tournament favorite and winner of four of the last five championships, in the semifinals and again won solidly in the final round against the other district favorite, Gonzaga, said Shanahan.

This came, he said, even though the final round judges panel was extremely conservative.

"We tend to be a somewhat, shall we say, radical team," said Shanahan. "This demonstrates that we could still adapt to our audience. Michael and Paul won the final round and were crowned Northwest CEDA champs."

Mabrey also received the top individual speaker award at the tournament and was named winner of the Becky Gallantine Memorial Award.

For district qualifiers at the University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, in February, said Shanahan, Mabrey and Richardson prepared intensely and altered their style dramatically in order to adapt to a very conservative audience.

"We compete in one of the most conservative districts in the country and were very worried that we might not qualify this year," said Shanahan, even though FHSU has qualified for national for the last five years, including qualifying two teams each of the last three years. These five years, he said, are the only times FHSU has qualified since Harold Stones was debate coach in 1961.

"Michael and Paul showed what they were made of, literally transforming who they were as debaters and accomplished a 6-2 record," said Shanahan.

They defeated Baylor, Kansas, the University of Missouri at Kansas City, Central Oklahoma, the University of Texas-Dallas and Southwest Missouri State. They lost to Missouri and a different UMKC team.

Mabrey received the second-place individual speaker award at the tournament.

For the 2003-04 season, the FHSU debaters finish as a team with one tournament win, three top-five finishes, three top-10s, and three top-20s. Individual awards include one top speaker, three top-10 speakers and six top-20 speakers.

Other members of the squad who contributed to the teams' successes this year, said Shanahan, were Paula Burke, Salina freshman who, with Richardson, was in the round of eight at the University of Central Oklahoma during the first semester, Scott Smith, Hutchinson sophomore, and Ben Hall, West Plains, MO, freshman.

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