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Debate Team Wraps Up Successful Season

April 25, 2017

Laura Lemire
Communications and Marketing
(603) 641-7240

Students at Debate Tournament.The Saint Anselm College Debate Team wrapped up their season this month at the National Forensic Association (NFA) Championship Tournament at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. In their 69th year of representing the college, the team enjoyed great success as they expanded their membership and entered into new areas of competition.

According to coach David Trumble, the debate team doubled in membership this year from eight to 16 students, including students from every class year and varying majors.

They competed in several different competitions throughout the school year, traveling around the country to Lafayette College in New York City, N.Y.; Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va.; Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio; Webster University in St. Louis, Mo.; and Emerson College in Boston, Mass. The team also hosted the Jack Lynch tournament on Saint Anselm's campus in November.

Trumble praised the contributions and support from previous members of the debate team who helped coordinate with Trumble and assist in facilitating tournaments. "Alumni have continued to play a vital role in the team's success," he said.

At the Jack Lynch tournament, alumni Lisa Pearson '96, Megan Grew '99, Jared Correia '00, Jessica Foster Correia '06, Michael Pirrello '07, Ryan Ollis '08, Nicole Thorspecken '09, Anthony Delcourt '09, Richard Bergeron '13 and Katherine Muzzy '15 assisted the team.

The team performed exceptionally well at the on-campus Jack Lynch Tournament. Senior English major Rebecca Pelletier won the tournament, as she took first place in both the overall category and in the Lincoln-Douglas debate. The team also placed first in Team Sweepstakes in the Lincoln-Douglas debate.

The Lincoln-Douglas (LD) debate is a policy debate modeled after the original 1858 debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas. Lincoln and Douglas were vying for one of Illinois' United States Senate seats.

Across the seven debates, Lincoln and Douglas frequently argued over the morals and logic of slavery. Modern LD debates continue this spirit by debating topical issues focused on logic, ethical values, and philosophy. These "resolutions" cover a variety of value-based issues.

LD debates are organized around a turn-based approach, wherein two individuals face off and alternate between asserting their case, cross-examining their opponent, and offering rebuttals and defenses. After the debate concludes, judges assign scores based on how effectively the debaters presented their resolutions, analyzed evidence, and on the quality of their speech delivery.

While LD debates remain the hallmark of collegiate debate competition, the team also began a new chapter of competition this season. Under the instruction of Coach Trumble, the team started participating in the individual events program, where debaters contest topics including persuasive, informative, and impromptu speaking.

Freshman politics major Margaret McSherry adapted particularly well to the new area of competition. After Trumble encouraged her to try speech events at the Northeast Regional Championship tournament at Suffolk University, McSherry took fourth place in the persuasive category. Fellow freshman and international relations major Cassandra Moran placed fifth in the informative speaking competition, and the pair qualified for the national tournament in their first time debating as individuals.

"I had planned on majoring in politics prior to attending Saint Anselm, and thought that doing an activity like debate might help further my public speaking skills and my understanding of public policy," McSherry said.

Backed by strong performances from history major Edward Frankonis and Pelletier in the LD debate, and by a third-place finish from history major Drew Collins in the IPDA (public debate) category, the team took first place in the tournament's overall debate sweepstakes.

Pelletier, Collins, McSherry, and Moran all qualified to compete in the National Forensic Association (NFA) Championship Tournament hosted at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire from April 13-17. Pelletier and Collins competed in the LD debate while McSherry and Moran debated the persuasive and informative speaking categories, respectively.

"I found it a little intimidating, as it was only my second tournament participating in a speech event," McSherry said, "but I enjoyed being able to represent the team as we branched into speech events."

As a novice competitor, McSherry placed 112 out of 134 debaters, edging out several experienced debaters. She was impressed with the "talent" of the tournament's competitors, and thoroughly enjoyed her experience.

"I have enjoyed getting to know the upperclassmen on our team, as well as the unique traveling opportunities I have experienced," said McSherry. "I plan on rejoining the team again next year, and have already begun thinking of my case for next season."

Out of 79 debaters in the LD debate, Pelletier placed 41st and Collins took 75th. Despite competing against schools with as many as 11 LD debaters, the Saint Anselm duo earned an 18th place finish, beating out six other colleges from the division one and two level.

The team will lose Pelletier to graduation, but remains confident in furthering its success and accomplishments next season with a strong core of returning students. The original eight students who returned to compete this season include senior Rebecca Pelletier, junior Kaitlin Morel, and sophomores William Bearce, Drew Collins, Gregory Valcourt, Katelyn Shaughnessy, Isabelle Daigle, and Edward Frankonis.

The returning debaters were joined by junior Lily Gre-Hitchen, sophomore Joshua Caruso, and freshmen Tyler Grabowski, Cassandra Moran, Erica Davis, Alexandros Pandazis, Melanie Fey, and Margaret McSherry.

Story by Jonathan Burkart '18

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