Story and photos by Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau
Grand Canyon University’s Speech and Debate team finished in the top eight in its first event of the new academic year, the Aztec Invitational Forensics Tournament at San Diego State University.
Led by its new director, Michael Dvorak, the team earned the ranking among 31 colleges and universities. Among those it surpassed were Azusa Pacific University, San Diego State University, Biola University and California State University, Long Beach.
Returning speech member junior Tommee Gleason earned third place in persuasive speaking and second place in communication analysis. The interpretation team of juniors Keliann Nash and Amanda Ostrem took second place in the overall tournament.
The returning debaters -- seniors Taylor Alandzes and Ashley Hoftiezer and sophomores Matthew Calderwood and Grace Laidlaw -- turned in strong finishes, making it to the quarterfinals.
Other commendable scores were notched by the speech members -- juniors Jeffrey Lewis, Brian White and Xanthia Clow.
The team, which next will compete in early November at California State University, Northridge, includes local coaches and recent graduates Zachary Kuykendall and Alaina Owen; Josh Vannoy, Director of Debate; and new employee Gregory Gorham, Director of Individual Events. Laidlaw is the student worker and Alandzes the player-coach team intern.
Dvorak is working with a young but successful team that has put GCU on the tournament map and has notched impressive victories since it began in 2013.
Last year, the team ranked 14th out of 179 colleges and universities and surpassed perennial top-20 teams such as Biola; the University of California, Berkeley; and the University of Oregon.
Related story: New Speech and Debate director walks the talk
Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or [email protected].