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Viking debaters open season strong

Nov. 3, 2011

The Augustana Debate Union’s 2011-2012 campaign got off to a quick and exciting start and there are high hopes that the Vikings will maintain this momentum moving into the winter term.

On Aug. 7, junior Benedict Fischer and sophomore Mason Broxham were accompanied by Max Archer, director of debate, and assistant Kyle Zarazan to Bradford Woods, Ind., to participate in a four-day retreat with students from Indiana University and Illinois State University. The Vikings used this experience as an opportunity to get a leg up on research and practice for this year's policy debate resolution:

Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its democracy assistance for one or more of the following countries: Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, Tunisia.

Upon their return to campus, the Vikings began an intense three weeks of preparation leading up to the season's first competition. Augustana debaters trained themselves in the use of paperless debate tactics, as the Augustana Debate Union (ADU) has now shifted to reading its arguments from laptop computers. This measure is designed to reduce the waste produced by the team’s nearly 2,000 pages of evidence. While a difficult transition at first, the Vikings are settling into 21st Century debate nicely, as evidenced by the 10 practice debates that students participated in before the season’s first competition even started.

Ulrich Season Opener

This practice paid quick dividends at the University of Northern Iowa’s Ulrich Season Opener, held Sept. 9-11.

Juniors Fischer, Andrew Heidtke and Nathan Treichel, sophomores Benjamin Bajda, Broxham, JohnDaniel Engelhardt and Benjamin Rudy, and first-year Mara Cantrell-Paulson took their talents to Cedar Falls and returned with a second-place trophy in the Junior Varsity Division.

The team of Bajda and Cantrell-Paulson emerged from the preliminary debates with a 4-2 record, advancing to the elimination rounds as the seventh seed. The duo won rematches against the second-seed (Johnson County Community College) on a 3-0 decision and the third seed (University of Missouri-Kansas City) on a 2-1 decision. Although their magical run to the championship was cut short by the top-seeded team from Kansas City Kansas Community College, the success achieved at the first tournament provides a firm confirmation of the importance of solid individual and collective effort.

This year’s finalist trophy is the second in the past three years brought home from the season opener and was particularly special for Cantrell-Paulson, as it was her first tournament at the college level.

Henry Clay Debates

Cantrell-Paulson, Engelhardt, Fischer and Heidtke traveled to the University of Kentucky’s Henry Clay Debates the first weekend of October. This competition featured more than 150 team entries from 53 colleges and universities. Fischer and Heidtke faced competitors from Texas, Wichita State, Wyoming, Minnesota, Louisville and Iowa. Cantrell-Paulson and Engelhardt argued their first open division tournament against KU, Gonzaga, North Texas, USC, Capital and Wake Forest. Although neither team advanced to the elimination rounds, the ability to test out their arguments against students from across the country gave them exposure to national level competition and a taste of what to expect the rest of the season.

Redbird Invitational

The ADU closed out the first term with an appearance at the Redbird Invitational held at Illinois State University. On homecoming weekend, Cantrell-Paulson, Engelhardt, Fischer, Heidtke and Treichel were joined by sophomore Gabriel Bouzard in Normal and brought home hardware for the second time in three tournaments. Both junior varsity teams of Bouzard/Cantrell-Paulson and Engelhardt/Treichel finished with 4-2 records, especially impressive given that it was Bouzard's first debate tournament ever. Engelhardt was JV's third-place speaker while Treichel took home the fifth-place honors.

Upcoming debates

The winter term will feature stiff competitive challenges at:

  • Wake Forest University (Nov. 12-14), where over 150 teams are anticipated;
  • the University of Iowa (Dec. 2-4), where the Vikings advanced to the semi-finals last season;
  • the Texas Two-Step (University of North Texas, Jan. 3-5 and University of Texas-Dallas, Jan. 7-9), where students will compete in at least 14 debates the week before returning to campus;
  • Indiana University (Jan. 21-23), where the program will face rematches with the district rivals faced at Illinois State;
  • Augustana’s own Viking Debates (Jan. 27-29).

Research and practice will continue throughout the season, as there is plenty of evidence to be discovered and “gametape” from 30 debate rounds to review and critique. The team also will travel to high school tournaments in the region to make connections with potential recruits and to learn from judging in real-round situations.

Ultimately, the team hopes to continue its success at the National Junior Division Debate Tournament held in March, where each of the past three seasons the team has brought home awards for elimination round and individual speaking achievements. The team also hopes to return to the elimination rounds at the Cross Examination Debate Association’s National Tournament and the National Debate Tournament. The latter will require the team to place highly at the District Five National Qualifier held over spring break.