Speech and debate team wins national tournament

March 13, 2014 / by / 0 Comment

By Janie Magruder
GCU News Bureau

Members of GCU's speech and debate team are all smiles after winning a national championship last weekend. Coach Barry Regan is in the back row, left. Photo courtesy Barry Regan

Members of GCU’s speech and debate team are all `Lopes Up after winning a national championship last weekend. Coach Barry Regan is in the back row, left. (Photo courtesy of Barry Regan)

In its inaugural year and loaded with talented freshmen, Grand Canyon University’s speech and debate team won a national championship at a prestigious Christian tournament last weekend, besting powerhouses from Pepperdine University, Azusa Pacific University and Seattle Pacific University.

The 11-student team, coached by Barry Regan, a first-year communications instructor at GCU, was named the Division III National Champion in Individual Events at the National Christian College Forensics Invitational, March 8-10 at California Baptist University in Riverside.

In addition to Pepperdine, Azusa Pacific and Seattle Pacific, GCU’s squad, which is affiliated with the University’s College of Arts and Sciences, beat contingents from San Diego Christian College, Northwest Nazarene University, Dordt College, Covenant College and Malone University.

“It’s really amazing because a lot of our students, at the beginning of the year, had no idea what speech and debate was about, and now they’re qualifying to elimination rounds,” said Regan, who teaches three public-speaking courses. “And because of the success we’ve had, we’ve been able to recruit some very good high school students. We’re growing the team and growing scholarship slots so we can be competitive someday in higher divisions.”

The team, with nine freshmen, was led last weekend by senior Jasmine Richardson, who took top-three honors in both of her events at the highly competitive varsity level, and Thomas Rotering, who, with his partner, Bradlee Waldraff, broke into the elite eight in the junior varsity of parliamentary debate. Richardson placed second in communication analysis and third in prose interpretation, while Rotering placed fifth in novice extemporaneous speaking and was a semifinalist in novice impromptu speaking.

“They allowed us to accumulate a lot of points and to finish ahead of a lot of the smaller schools,” Regan said.

Rotering, 18, a pre-physician assistant major from Colorado Springs, said competing in speech and debate is both scary and fantastic.

“I love it mostly because it is terrifying,” he said. “You learn so much about a wide variety of topics, and by being thrown in there you can see what you are made of and see what you can come up with. It’s not always pretty, but you always learn a lot.”

The existence of a speech and debate team helped Rotering decide to attend to GCU. He hoped to have a chance of getting a spot on it.

“I really appreciate the scholarship because it made it more affordable to come here,” he said. “And this is a healthy distance from home.”

Other team standouts included freshman Zachary Kuykendall (semifinalist in novice extemporaneous) and junior Alixis Russell (semifinalist in novice impromptu).

Because the tournament’s scoring system was so complex, the team had no idea it had done so well, Regan said. They were thrilled with the standing ovation the large crowd gave to them.

“They worked so hard and were so relieved,” he said. “To have given up four of the past seven weekends to attend events from Louisiana to California, and practicing twice a week, too, to have such dedication and beat out schools that give full-ride scholarships to speech and debate students, this is pretty amazing.”

Regan also thanked adjunct faculty member Matthew Swanson for helping coach the team.

Rotering said he wouldn’t have done as well without Regan’s and Swanson’s help and encouragement.

“They spent a lot of time with me, so it’s great the work paid off this weekend,” he said. “It was a great opportunity at a Christian national tournament to represent God and our University through speech.”

Members of the team have three more chances to shine this spring, starting with the National Parliamentary Debate Championships, to be held March 20-23 at Northern Arizona University. Richardson qualified to participate in the exclusive American Forensic Association national championships, which will be April 4-7 at Arizona State University, and seven GCU teammates qualified for the renowned National Forensic Association national tournament, scheduled for April 17-21, at Eastern Michigan University.

Contact Janie Magruder at 639.8018 or janie.magruder@gcu.edu

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