Whitman Forensics Newsletter

Vol. 14, No. 1, December, 2007





Jonathan working     Allison advanced


Luke and Daniel were 3rd seed at Pepperdine


Fires at Pepperdine!

               In October, the team headed back to Malibu, California for the Pepperdine tournament. Entering as defending champs two years running, the team felt confident about their chances of making it three in a row. We also stayed with Doug Cotler again, the Grammy-award winning musician kind enough to host Whitman debate on numerous occasions. By now, he’s a solid friend of the team, and everyone loves his dog, Molly. This year had an added twist to the rooming accommodations, as the UPS debate team also stayed with us, including Whitman alum and current UPS coach Ben Meiches. We enjoyed a great cooked breakfast with Doug and at night, a campfire with roasted marshmallows.

               The team debated strongly for the first two days of prelims. Then, the truly bizarre happened. After finding out the night before elims that four of our five teams were advancing to the final rounds, Jim rose early in the morning to leave for the tournament. Before he woke the teams though, he received a phone call from the tournament director telling him that a large wildfire was threatening the campus and the road to Malibu was completely closed off. To make things worse, there were very heavy winds making the fire difficult to control.

               On the suggestion of the tournament, we bided our time and waited for news. After several hours, a coaches meeting was called at the nearby tournament hotel. After discussing several options, including holding rounds

without evidence (most of which was still in campus buildings closed because of the fire), coaches voted and the tournament was cancelled. Despite being disappointed at not debating in elims, the team hung out at the Cotlers, waiting out a wind-caused power outage, helped out June Foray, the voice of Rocky from the Rocky and Bullwinkle show, with a branch that had fallen on her driveway, and we celebrated our claim that we remain defending champions for another year.



Three Parli-IE Tournaments and our Hotels

               The year started off with a bang at the Reed College tournament, hosted by Reed, but run by Jim. Whitman claimed top honors as a squad at the tournament by breaking three open teams including semis in open division (Jeff Wilson and Chris Fleming) and winning the novice division (Ryan Lum and Cat Valverde). Jim finally broke down and paid for hotel rooms, since Chris Chamness graduated and his parents’ home was no longer available.

               Following the success of Reed and the great work ethic that the first years have brought to the team, we were poised for success at the Lewis and Clark tournament. Our IE Competitors absolutely rocked the house—with 8 of our 10 competitors advancing into finals! Among the winners, Chris Fryefield was second in Senior Extemp and Kristen Coverdale was second in Novice Impromptu. We also advanced two teams into elims, Nigel Ramoz-Leslie and Maile Zeng (quarters) and Kristen Coverdale and Jon Handwerk (semis). Jim wasn’t so generous with the hotels at this tournament and the $59 a night place we stayed at faced a slew of car break-ins with shattered glass strewn throughout the parking lot. Fortunately, our vans were left untouched.

               The UPS tournament was another nice showing for Whitman. Maile Zeng and Nigel Ramoz-Leslie, went 5-1 in Prelims in JV division and won their semi-final match, only to fall to a Lewis and Clark team in finals. Our junior teams’ success was possible with the help of recent graduate Chris Chamness, files from our high school debate camp, and our new housing. For UPS, we’ve usually stayed in Fife at a not so nice Motel 6. This year, Jim splurged and we stayed in Tacoma at the tournament hotel (La Quinta) and we were a mere 15 minutes away from the tournament. Thank you for this one Jim!



Amy, Chris, and Cat


Joel and Annie





Jim Hanson           Aaron Hardy 



Rob Olsen                   Ross Richendrfer 



Christine Simbolon        Navdeep Aujla


Staff: Jim Hanson, Director of Forensics, Aaron Hardy, Policy Coach; Rob Olsen, Parliamentary and I.E. Coach; Ross Richendrfer, Assistant Policy Coach; Christine Simbolon and Navdeep Aujla, Student Assistants and Intramural Debate Managers; Bob Withycombe, Professor, Rhetoric and Film Studies; Lori Bettison-Varga, Dean of Faculty, Chuck Cleveland, Dean of Students; and George Bridges, President, Whitman College.


39 Competitors, Fall 2007: Allison Ikeda, Amy Soderquist, Annie Hickman, Cat Valverde, Chris Fleming, Chris Fryefield, Daniel Straus, Dave Mathews, Eric Chalfant, Gary Wang, Jeff Wilson, Joel Wilson, Jon Handwerk, Jonathan Dentler, Kristen Coverdale, Lawrence Grandpre, Lewis Silver, Luke Sanford, Maile Zeng, Mike Meredith, Nate Cohn, Nick Griffin, Nigel Ramoz-Leslie, Ryan Lum, Sam Allen, Spencer Janyk, with Robby White (competing for WWCC) plus Alexander Higgins, Christopher Huong, Gary Yuman Wang, Lauren Guest, Luke Hagel, Matthew Bingham, Matthew Duncan, Maryn Juergens, Roman Goerss, Russell Caditz-Peck, Sarah Deming.



Eric does Syria research.  Nate does Iran work.



Chris rocks in Extemp.  Spencer in Jim’s robe.


Maile & Jon were in elims at Lewis and Clark.


Jim becomes longest serving director

               Jim Hanson returns for his 16th year of coaching, the longest in Whitman’s history. Aaron Hardy returns as the Policy Coach for a third year almost moving toward a longest serving record as assistant. Rob Olsen returns for his second year as Parliamentary-Individual Events Coach. Christine Simbolon and Navdeep Aujla, Whitman frosh and good friends, have taken the reins as Jim’s assistants. Little did they know what they were getting themselves into. They are already a great help to Jim. Ross Richendrfer who graduated last year, returns to help as the Policy Assistant.


Ryan thumbs up.                              Kristen smiles. 



Cat is very tenacious.                       Lewis is cheerful.


Return of the Alums

               One of the best parts of Whitman Debate is that it’s like an extended family – alums can only stay away for so long before they’re drawn back in to the fold. Obviously, the recent past has seen lots of help to the team from former debaters like Thad Blank and Eric Suni. This year has been no exception. Not only has recent graduate Ross Richendrfer stayed on as a coach, but other former team members have been willing to throw their hat in the ring whenever possible. Jake Ginsbach and Andrew Stokes, still attending Whitman, even came out of retirement to help produce evidence before the Wake Forest tournament.

               Even alums not involved directly with Whitman debate are still finding a way to stay involved in the activity and lend their talents elsewhere. Jeff Buntin is back for another year as an assistant coach for Gonzaga, and first-year out Ben Meiches has recently taken on coaching duties for the University of Puget Sound. Meghan Hughes, despite a full-time job in the Seattle area, finds time to help at Holy Names Academy coached by alum Sean Harris. Adam Symonds is now coaching at Arizona State University. Beth Schueler is working at a debate and education program in the Bay area. Of our graduating seniors last year, three are still directly involved in debate, and the last, Matt Schissler, is in Thailand and still can’t resist emailing Jim to get the latest information about the team.



Meghan joined the team at the WNPT.               Ben also appeared at the WNPT.


The Facebook Dragon!

               Recently, the social website, Facebook, introduced a new application: the pet dragon. The application allows you to raise a dragon from a hatchling into a full-grown dragon. Thus far the team has at least 7 dragons. Mike Meredith, Eric Chalfant, Nate Cohn, Daniel Straus, Luke Sanford, Robby White (WW), and Coach Rob Olsen all have dragons, with names ranging from D[ragon]Straus to Rafsanjani. With these dragons, debate team members can attack each other, collect treasure, and help defend other dragons. So far, Robby’s Dragon has the best fight record at 2-1, followed closely by Eric and Luke with records of 2-2 and 4-4, respectively. Both Mike and Rob have yet to win a match.




The 2007 WNDI

The 2007 Camp was the biggest yet. With over 130 participants, the camp brought in students from all over the United States and for the first time featured selective “Scholars” Labs for advanced students in Policy and LD Debate and also for the first time, the camp offered Public Forum debate. Students and coaches attending praised the individual attention provided and were especially pleased at the improvement and learning. The camp was held July 22 through August 9, 2007.


Kristen and Nigel: warmies.


Amy at the team party.


The Moving Furniture and Changing Rooms!

·        Aaron has moved into the Storage room.

·        Students have moved used stuffed furniture into some of the Prep rooms.

·        Jim bought wood and had new shelves built in the cove for storage.

  • But one thing remains constant—that hideous but incredibly comfy couch in Jim’s office.


Nick on a chair.     


The Holiday Party



Luke, Annie, and Aaron enjoy good times.    Ryan cooks a great meal! 


               As always, the holiday party was a fun time, but instead of Jim’s usual Ravioli or Pork, first year Ryan Lum cooked up a delectable feast. Appetizers included cheese and crackers with spinach dip and chips, followed by a main course of ham, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and rice pilaf. The meal ended with warm apple turnovers and ice cream. Besides the food, the evening included Jim’s stuffed stockings and the traditional white elephant gift exchange. This year’s worst prize recipient was Sam Allen who was given a yam. For his trouble, Sam was rewarded with some cash from Jim and a box of old stocking stuffers. Coming in a close second for worst gift was first year Jon Handwerk with two sopping wet nerf footballs found in the back of Robby White’s truck. When the party was over, everyone’s stomachs were filled, and their stockings stuffed with care, thanks to Jim’s helpers junior Luke Sanford, senior Annie Hickman, and sophomore Dave Matthews.



Jonathan enjoys the party.   Dave and Amy smile.    Lewis kicks back.


Scrabulous takes over

               Despite working very hard, the team still finds time to goof off in the squadroom. Recent years have seen the rise and fall of such classic time-wasters as Unreal Tournament, Japanese sub-titled TV, The Impossible Quiz, Disc Golf, Defcon (a nuclear war strategy game that might be considered “work” by debate standards), and even an old-fashioned chess board. Recently, however, a far more insidious force has invaded Hunter in the form of an online scrabble game for Facebook called Scrabulous.

               Scrabulous allows players to challenge friends and play over the course of hours, days, or even longer, all in a web browser. As such, many team members have taken to playing multiple games of Scrabulous simultaneously with multiple people, while pretending to work. In reality, most are debating over whether utilizing an online dictionary qualifies as “cheating” and whether senior Eric Chalfant is the best player or not. While Scrabulous does develop linguistic and verbal skills which may come in handy in debate, it remains to be seen whether the attendant loss in productivity is worth it.

Nigel on Jim’s couch.




Whitman Forensics Newsletter

Vol. 14, No. 1, December, 2007


Contributions to the Team

We are grateful for your contributions to the forensic team! Generous donors May 1, 2007 through December 10, 2007 include: Abigail Joy St. Lawrence, Barbara and Rodney D. Orth, Benjamin Aaron Meiches, Charlotte K. and David A. McClusky, Daphne Teals and Drummond Kahn, James B. Hanson, Janice Sandra Berman, Jason P. Smith, Jessica Ann Clarke, John R. Miller, Kelly and Mathew L. Cleman, Kristofer Peterson, Lisa A. and Ted Slabach, Louise C. and James L. Abbott, Patrick Joseph Carter, PG&E Corporation Foundation, Robert M. Withycombe, Ryan James Hagemann, Theodore Braden Blank V. If we missed you, please tell us because we do appreciate your support!

Nav gives a cute smile.

Send contributions to Annual Fund Office; Whitman College; Walla Walla WA 99362

Checks should be made out to Whitman College with a note that says to place the contribution into one of the Debate Team Funds (Salzman-Medica, Withycombe, Walker, or just say “for debate”).



Sam                  Annie and Jon        Mike              Annie, Maile, Chris    Nate and Luke        Christine



               For the first time in several years, the team attended the Harvard tournament over the Halloween weekend. Seniors Eric Chalfant and Mike Meredith, Junior Sam Allen, and Sophomore Nate Cohn left Walla Walla early on a Thursday afternoon for the marathon trip. It included a drive to Portland, very long red-eye flights overnight with long layovers, all to arrive in Boston early Friday morning. After taking cabs to the hotel, hours before check-in time, the whole team fell asleep on the floor in the lobby surrounded by luggage. Miraculously, no one got yelled at.

               The team did well at one of the most difficult tournaments of the year, at which only 16 teams reach elimination rounds, going 5-3 and 4-4 in the preliminary rounds, including several wins against top-ranked teams. Despite not breaking, the team had a great time fending off crazy cabdrivers, attending the Harvard Banquet, and eating deep-dish pizza at Pizzeria Uno’s. The team did fail in one regard, which was not entering the annual Harvard costume contest. Many ideas were tossed around for comical quartets, including the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Beatles, and the gang from Scooby Doo. Unfortunately, none came to fruition – perhaps in the future, our prize awaits. Suggestions for costumes can be emailed to Jim. Maybe if we’re lucky, he’ll agree to go as Scooby Doo.




(1st row) Cat, Maile, Jon, Chris, Amy

(2nd row) Kristen, Nigel, Joel, Annie, Rob


Parli and IE Awards


AMY SODERQUIST, Lewis and Clark, Jr Extemp, SIXTH.



CAT VALVERDE, Lewis and Clark, Jr Extemp, FIFTH.


CHRIS FRYEFIELD: Lewis and Clark, Sr Extemp, SECOND.


JOEL WILSON, Lewis and Clark, Jr Impromptu, THIRD.


KRISTEN COVERDALE, Lewis and Clark, Novice Impromptu, SECOND.

MAILE ZENG, Lewis and Clark, Nov Extemp, THIRD.


NIGEL RAMOZ-LESLIE, Lewis and Clark, Novice Impromptu, SIXTH.

RYAN LUM, Lewis and Clark, Novice Impromptu, FIFTH.



(1st row) Sam, Robby, Eric, Jonathan, Nick

(2nd row) Mike, Nate, Luke, Allison, Lewis, Spencer

(3rd row) Aaron, Ross, Gary, Dave, Daniel.



Policy Awards





ERIC CHALFANT AND MIKE MEREDITH: Gonzaga, QUARTERS; Kentucky, 5-3, Harvard, 5-3, Wake Forest, 5-3.


LUKE SANFORD AND DANIEL STRAUS: Gonzaga, OCTAS; Kentucky, 5-3; Pepperdine, 5-1.





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