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This item originally appeared in the Jan. 22, 2004, issue of The Tech Talk.


Staff Writer

The Debate Team won second place overall and brought home a first-place trophy in overall debate after the Arkansas Tech Sahara Swing Tournament held last weekend at Arkansas Tech University.

The Debate Team traveled to Russellville, Ark., on Jan. 16 to compete in the tournament, which was held at Arkansas Tech University.

Trey Gibson, debate team coach and an instructor of speech, and 11 students stayed in Arkansas for the duration of the two-day event. The tournament was a debate-intensive endurance run of back-to-back events, he said.

"There's a lot of high stress for the students," Gibson said. "They don't get a lot of the credit they deserve."

The team was also awarded sixth place in individual events. The competition was against 19 other schools.

Sheldon Clark, a junior business management and entrepreneurship major, won fourth place in after-dinner speaking, as well as fourth place in impromptu speaking.

Matt LaCaze, a freshman biomedical engineering major, placed fifth in extemporaneous speaking. Levy Leatherman, a senior speech major, won first place in debate speaking, first in persuasive speaking and qualified for the semifinals in his division.

Michelli McKnight, a sophomore political science major, placed third in after-dinner speaking. Michael Melcher, a senior physics major, went to the quarterfinals in the open division of the IPDA, International Public Debate Association.

Megan Smith went to the quarterfinals in the IPDA novice division.

The tournament was divided into two halves. Two featured events complete the first half: parliamentary and public debate. The parliamentary debates consisted of teams, while the public debates are one-on-one.

The other half of the tournament consisted of three individual events: limited preparation, prepared speech and interpretation.

Gibson said he was enthusiastic about the tournament and the team. Though four of his students were well-versed in the debate world, two participants went as newcomers.

"This was their first shot battling the big boys," Gibson said. "It was exciting."

The debating events were high-critique forums. After the event, the team member received "ballot after ballot after ballot" of what he or she said or did wrong, Gibson said.

Gibson also said he believes the strenuous activity is a healthy preparation for his students to enter the "real world" as they learn that critiques are often more valuable than praise.

"They understand the value of constructive criticism," Gibson said. "They develop thick skin in a high-stress and high-critique world."

Anne-Marie LeBlanc, a freshman speech communication major, is new to the team. LeBlanc has already attended tournaments this year, but this was her first active participation.

She said she was excited and nervous but felt confident in her ability.

"I feel very prepared because of my teammates and debate coach," she said.

Both days of the tournament consisted of long hours and no breaks. Participants of the debate rarely had time for a full meal, so they were encouraged to carry protein bars and water to maintain their energy.

Clark, captain of the debate team, is a veteran of the debate scene. This was his 10th tournament.

Clark agreed with Gibson that the debate events can be extremely strenuous.

"It's very demanding, mentally and physically," Clark said. "Mentally, most importantly."

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