GCU debate pair makes history with tournament title

October 08, 2018 / by / 0 Comment



The Speech and Debate trophy case will become even more crowded following the team’s success at the Aztec Invitational.

By Theresa Smith
GCU News Bureau

The Speech and Debate team’s trophy case on the third floor of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences already is packed with hardware, and now another trophy will be added — a second-place overall award for the Grand Canyon University Speech and Debate team from its performances Saturday and Sunday in the Aztec Invitational at San Diego State University. 

The highlight of the event was the first-place finish by the senior debate pair of Matthew Calderwood and Grace Laidlaw in the open division of Parliamentary Debate. It marked the first time in the six-year history of GCU Debate that a Lopes team won first place at a tournament.

“This is a testament to the hard work and commitment that Matthew and Grace put into debate specifically,” said assistant director Joshua Vannoy. “They were one of the teams that put in so much work over the summer in their free time. Regarding being the top finish in GCU debate history, it reflects the growth of Grand Canyon as a university and the growth of the team. It also displays that my philosophy in debate is that hard work wins out over talent.”

Calderwood and Laidlaw made history by defeating a pair from Concordia University of Irvine, Calif.  They were tasked with the following topic: Should the United States Food and Drug Administration substantially increase regulations on the use of crispr (genome editing) technology.  Calderwood and Laidlaw were assigned to argue against increasing the regulations; they won by a 2-1 decision. 

As a precursor to their success, Calderwood and Laidlaw were coming off a finalist showing (10th out of 49 teams) in last month’s prestigious Georgia B. Bowman Invitational at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo.

Also, Calderwood was honored by the judges with speaker points. He finished eighth in the Open Debate division in that category. Freshman Ben Kuykendall also finished eighth in speaker points in the novice division.

In terms of the entire Speech and Debate team, 13 members of the 19-member team made the trip west to California, including three pairs of debaters and seven individuals who made oral presentations in the speech competition. The event drew competitors from 22 colleges — 33 pairs in the Varsity Debate division, 19 pairs in the novice division and 144 students competing in the six speech events.

Back row. from left: Tommee Gleason, Brian White, Simon Hawks, Luis Pena
Front row, from left: Xanthia Clow, Keliann Nash, Samantha Santos.

Among the top competitors for GCU, senior Tommee Gleason won first place for Impromptu Speaking, Xanthia Clow captured first in Communication Analysis, and Keliann Nash was the champion in Program of Oral Interpretation.

Clow warned the audience of the possible dangers of the children’s movie “Show Dogs,” while Nash spoke of the emotions experienced by victims of gun violence.

In the novice division of Parliamentary Debate, Kuykendall teamed with freshman Joseph Madere for runner-up honors.

The assigned debate topics ranged from the confirmation of new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to energy usage and minimum wage, a timely topic given Amazon’s recent decision to raise the minimum wage for its workers to $15 per hour, beginning Nov. 1.

“We exceeded expectations and we were able to have our most successful first team tournament ever,” said Michael Dvorak, the Director of Forensics and a GCU instructor of communication. “While debate had a tournament two weeks earlier, this is the first tournament where speech was involved, and we were able to be ranked as the second-place overall team at the tournament.”

Contact Theresa Smith at (602) 639-7457 or [email protected].


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