Kustin, Thompson Place Second at Debate Championship; Whitman Claims First Team Title

March 22, 2005

WALLA WALLA, Wash. – Sunday was a very good day for the Whitman College parliamentary debate program.

Seniors Bridget Kustin and Scott Thompson came ever so close to winning the National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA) Championship, losing a 5-4 decision in the final debate. A few hours later, Whitman as a team claimed its first-ever national title in the season-long sweepstakes competition.

“It was a great day for Whitman debate,” Whitman debate team director Jim Hanson said Monday. “I am elated and feel great. I’m still beaming inside.”

A year ago, Whitman’s parliamentary debate contingent placed second in the final season standings, trailing only Point Loma Nazarene University. This season, according to numbers released Sunday evening, Whitman piled up 92 points to take the top sweepstakes spot. The University of Puget Sound was second with 90 points while Western Kentucky University finished third with 89 points.

The NPDA championships, which began last Friday at Texas Tech University, attracted about 210 teams from around the country. Kustin, an English major from Sherman Oaks, Calif., and Thompson, a politics and rhetoric & film studies major from Auburn, Wash., won seven of eight rounds during the tournament preliminaries. The Whitman duo then rolled past five more opponents in the elimination rounds before losing in the finals to a team from Portland’s Lewis & Clark College.

By placing second, Kustin and Thompson posted the best-ever finish for a Whitman duo at the NPDA championships. Whitman’s previous best showing came at the 2001 tournament, when Natalie Havlina and Gabe McGuire lost in the semifinals, placing third. A year ago, Thompson teamed with then senior Chris Gorman to finish ninth at the NPDA championships.

Four other Whitman teams competed in last weekend’s NPDA championships. Two of those duos -- senior Beth Pearson (Indianola, Iowa) and sophomore Chris Chamness (Portland, Ore.) as well as senior Chandra Carlisle (Ridgefield, Wash.) and junior Rob Olsen (Helena, Mont.), advanced as far as the octa-finals, finishing in a tie for 33rd place. Also competing were teams comprised of sophomore Stephen Reed (Kennewick, Wash.) and junior Nav Rekhi (San Jose, Calif.) and senior Alex Bollinger (Carmel, Ind.) and freshman Jeff Wilson (Helena, Mont.).

Earlier this month, Kustin and Thompson placed 12th in the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence (NPTE), a competition hosted by Minnesota’s Century College and restricted to the top 48 teams in the nation. Pearson and Chamness placed 29th. A year ago, Thompson teamed with Chris Gorman (a senior at the time) to place second in the NPTE championship.

While Whitman’s parliamentary debaters were capping a strong season Sunday, Whitman’s policy debate group was off to a great start at the Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) National Championships at San Francisco State University. Doing battle in a field of about 180 teams, Whitman joined Dartmouth and the University of California-Berkeley as the only schools that advanced four duos directly into Monday afternoon’s triple octa-finals.

Later in the afternoon, three Whitman teams then advanced to double octa-finals. “Three teams is the most we’ve ever had in that round at this tournament,” Hanson said.

Finally, by Monday evening, two Whitman teams advanced to Tuesday’s octa-finals, or the final 16 teams. “Having two teams in octa-finals is amazing,” Hanson said. “It’s very exciting. These have been two of the best days of my debate coaching career.”

Whitman’s two surviving teams, as of Monday night, are seniors Beth Schueler (Walnut Creek, Calif.) and Eric Suni (Kansas City, Mo.) on one hand, and junior Jeff Buntin (Montrose, Colo.) and sophomore Ben Meiches (Minnetonka, Minn.) on the other.

Sophomores Ross Richendrfer (Mount Vernon, Wash.) and Matt Schissler (Bellingham, Wash.) dropped a close 2-1 decision in double octa-finals. First-year debaters Mike Meredith (Discovery Bay, Calif.) and Eric Chalfant (Oak Harbor, Wash.) advanced as far as triple octa-finals.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Update on CEDA National Championships

Whitman’s Jeff Buntin and Ben Meiches placed fifth at the Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) National Championshis, which concluded Tuesday at San Francisco State University.

Buntin and Meiches lost in the quarterfinals to a highly ranked team from Harvard University. In placing fifth, the duo posted Whitman’s best finish since Charles Olney and Thad Blank finished second in 2003, third in 2002 and fifth in 2001. Jessica Clarke and Adam Symonds won the CEDA championship in 1999.

Whitman’s Beth Schueler and Eric Suni advanced as far as the octa-finals (final 16) of this year’s CEDA tournament. Schueler and Suni placed ninth, losing in the octa-finals to Craig Wickersham and Stacey Nathan, a duo from the University of California-Berkeley that eventually won the tournament.

Whitman’s Ross Richendrfer and Matt Schissler dropped a close 2-1 decision in double octa-finals. Mike Meredith and Eric Chalfant advanced as far as triple octa-finals.

Two of Whitman’s policy debate teams, Buntin/Meiches and Schueler/Suni, will compete March 25-28 at the National Debate Tournament, which takes place at Gonzaga University.

CONTACT: Dave Holden, Whitman News Service

509 527-5902; holden@whitman.edu