There’s no debate – Whitman debaters excel

In separate national competitions, Whitman’s Parliamentary and Policy debate teams continued traditions of excellence that have become a hallmark of the college.

Parliamentary Report:

For the third consecutive year, Whitman’s Parliamentary Debate Team is the best in the nation, even though it finished a close second in the 2012 national championship tournament, held March 22-24 in Bellingham, Wash.

For the entirety of the 2011-12 season that ended with the tournament, the Whitman debaters scored more total points and won more pairings than any other school in the nation, earning what the National Parliamentary Debate Association calls its “Sweepstakes” award.

Whitman team members John Henry Heckendorn ’12 and Miranda Morton ’13 each won individual awards and competed in the tension-packed Championship Round, with a level of drama and anticipation reflective of Game 7 of the World Series.

They lost their final debate – the last of Heckendorn’s storied collegiate debate career – finishing second to worthy competitors from Washburn University. The duo – Team HM – was one of two Whittie pairs to make the semi-finals, meaning that two of the final four teams (out of 160) were in the final four of the intense, three-day tournament held at Western Washington University.

The other Whitman semi-finalist team included Mitch Dunn ’13 and Drake Skaggs ’12, who took fourth place in the tournament after being on the short end of a 4-3 judges’ decision that went to the Washburn team.

Whitman is among the smallest schools to compete in the national debate community, which is a close knit group of students whose passion, training and preparation for their activity rival that of any athlete. Some team members call themselves “mental athletes.”

Debaters talk at a pace that is comparable to that of auctioneers and speak in long bursts, expending all the oxygen in their lungs and grabbing two or three short breaths just in the nick of time. They map out their strategies on paper in what they call a “flow” – a long list of key words and phrases upon which they expand to make arguments and counter those of their opponents.  

“Across the board, Whitman absolutely dominated this year,” said Nigel Ramoz-Leslie ’11, parliamentary debate coach, who was a member of the team when he was a Whitman student. “We have a lot of rising talent as well as many debaters who have already established themselves as among the best. I expect the team to continue to be one of the best programs in the country for years to come.”


Policy Report:

The Policy team competed at the CEDA (Cross Examination Debate Association) National Championship in Norman, Okla., March 22-26. The senior team of Allison Humble ’12 and Alex Zendah ’12 team made it to the tournament finals, finishing in second place out of 150 teams attending the tournament. They won seven debates and lost one, then won five in a row in the elimination rounds, only to lose to the hometown team, University of Oklahoma, on a 6-3 decision. Humble came in 20th place overall for individual speakers at the tournament.

The duo then went to the National Debate Tournament in Atlanta, hosted by Emory University. They had a heartbreaking 2-1 loss in their 8th round that left them with four wins and four losses, keeping them from advancing to elimination rounds.  The younger teams all finished 4-4, one win away from advancing to elimination rounds.

Reflecting on the overall success of the policy debaters and their strong showing at the tournament, Policy Coach Aaron Hardy said, “It’s really a testament to the incredible amount of hard work put in by the team to prepare for the championships. For our seniors, Allison and Alex, the National Debate Tournament was the culmination of four years of dedication to debate, and they represented Whitman extremely well.

“Whitman is one of the very few four-year colleges, as opposed to universities, to participate in the National Debate Tournament. We held our own with much larger schools, even defeating Ivy League schools like Dartmouth in head-to-head matchups. As the coach, I'm extremely proud of the commitment and investment they display. Competing at the very top echelons of collegiate policy debate is one of the hardest and most time-consuming activities an undergraduate can choose to pursue, and they handled themselves and the pressure with aplomb,” Hardy said.


The following Whitman students competed at the 2012 National Parliamentary Debate Tournament at Western Washington University:

John Henry Heckendorn ’12 – economics/politics major; Andover, Mass.              
Miranda Morton ’13 – history major; Portland, Ore.
Mitch Dunn ’13 – politics major, Damascus, Ore.                            
Drake Skaggs ’12 – politics major, Juneau, Alaska
Andy Larson ’13 – economics major; Boise, Idaho                                                 
Adam McKibben ’12 – history/art history and visual culture studies major; Boise, Idaho
Nick Budak ’14 – politics major; Portland, Ore.
Paige Joki ’14 – gender studies major; Boise, Idaho
Marten King ’14 – still deciding major; Seattle                                                    
Shanglun (Sean) Wang ’13 – economics/mathematics major; Little Rock, Ark.
Yonah Ariel-Biers ’15 – still deciding major; Davis, Calif.                          
Michelle Flores ’15 – still deciding major; Maple Falls, Wash.
Logan Emlet ’14 – still deciding major; Washington, D.C.                                                 Olivia Kipper ’13 – classics major; Portland, Ore.
Carly Johnson ’13 – gender studies major; Snohomish, Wash.                                
Hanne Jensen ’14 – English major; Reno, Nev.
Zac Parker ’15 – still deciding major; Kalispell, Mont.                                                         Noah Teller ’14 – still deciding major; Berkeley, Calif.

The following students competed at the 2012 CEDA National Championship Tournament at the University of Oklahoma:

Ben Menzies’14 – religion major; Nevada City, Calif.
David Collier ’14 – still deciding major; Manchester, Mont.
Tia Butler ’13 – Spanish major; Arlington, Wash.
Tiffany Lewis ’14 – still deciding major; Dubach, La.
Sean Mulloy ’14 – still deciding major; Chandler, Ariz.
Jonathan Barsky ’15 – still deciding major; Carlsbad, Calif.
Allison Humble ’12 – biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology major; Gig Harbor, Wash.
Alex Zendeh ’12 – economics major; Lexington, Mass.