Two weeks, two national championship tournaments, and two debaters from Fort Hays State University returned at the end of March with a fifth-place finish out of 185 teams at the national Cross-Examination Debate Association (CEDA) tournament in Wichita.
The team also competed in the National Debate Tournament (NDT) at the University of California-Fullerton in the final four days of March.
The team of Avery Henry, Guymon, Okla., senior, and Chris Spurlock, Canon City, Colo., sophomore, amassed a 6-2 win-loss record in the preliminary CEDA debates, defeating the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash., the University of West Georgia, Carrollton, Missouri State University, Springfield, Idaho State University, Pocatello, and the University of Richmond, Richmond, Va.
"We lost to two top 16 teams, a different Missouri State team and one from the University of Kansas," said Dr. William Shanahan, director of forensics and assistant professor of communication studies at FHSU. Spurlock and Henry were ranked in the top 50 individual speakers out of 370.
The Tiger debaters got a bye through the next round of debates, then defeated another KU team in the triple-octafinals (the final 64 teams), defeating them on a 3-0 decision from the panel of judges, and then debated "an incredible team from Cal State-Fullerton, a team that matched up perfectly with our style of debating and to whom we had lost all year," said Shanahan.
"We defeated them on another 3-0 decision on the fourth day of intensive debating (12-14-hour days) and in the octafinals -- the sweet 16 -- we debated a different Whitman team and won on a 2-1 decision," said Shanahan.
In the quarterfinals, when the tournament was down to the final eight teams, the Tigers debated another rival, Towson University, Towson, Md., the eventual national champions. "We lost a hotly contested 1-2 decision," said Shanahan. That debate drew a standing-room-only crowd of about 200 students and coaches, he said.
The Tigers did not make it to the elimination debates in the NDT in Fullerton, Calif., finishing with a 4-4 record. The CEDA national championship is open entry, but the NDT involved only 78 qualifying teams. FHSU debaters earned a place at Fullerton with an 8-0 record at the District III qualifying tournament.
"While the NDT was disappointing, Fort Hays State debate is clearly one of the premier debate programs in the country," said Shanahan. "Our awesome performance at the CEDA nationals demonstrates just how good Avery and Chris are when they are debating well. We may have gotten too confident before the NDT, but these students worked over 40 hours a week during our eight-month season. We competed in 13 tournaments, which last three days and involve five days, including travel."
"College debating involves some this country's best and brightest students, who compete against all comers, regardless of division, size, or accomplishment," said Shanahan. "Our academic, competitive success goes a long way towards demonstrating that FHSU truly does provide 'affordable success.' "