WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- With Hunter Conservatory once again serving as its stylish springboard, the Whitman College Speech & Debate Team is off and running on what could be its most successful season ever.

Competing as a full squad for the first time this fall, Whitman dominated last weekend's Pioneer Invitational, which was held at Lewis & Clark College and served as the first of three designated tournaments in the Northwest Forensics Conference.

Whitman rolled to a first-place showing in the sweepstakes scoring with a whopping 182.8 points, more than 70 points in front of its nearest competitor.

While tracing records in the long history of Whitman forensics is not easy, coach Jim Hanson believes that last weekend's point total is a new single-tournament school record.

Now in his 10th season as director of Whitman's debate/speech program, Hanson expects more success in the months ahead. "This is the strongest team we've had in my time here, and perhaps the strongest in the history of the program. We have very good teams in both policy and parliamentary debate, and we continue to improve in the individual events."

Thad Blank and Charles Olney, Whitman's top policy debate team, led the way at last weekend's Pioneer Invitational, beating a team from Gonzaga University in the finals to place first in that portion of the competition.

The Blank-Olney duo was one of four Whitman teams to place in the top nine. Brian Ward and Michael Winnike finished third, while Emily Cordo and Beth Schueler placed fifth. David Guidry and Joey Bennett slipped into ninth place. In the individual speaker scoring, Olney was second, Blank fifth, Cordo sixth and John Poor 10th.

One of Whitman's younger teams, Sean Beaver and Scott Thompson, placed first in the junior policy debate division. Beaver also took first in the individual speaker scoring, while Thompson was second. Both are first-year students.

In parliamentary debate, Whitman seniors Gabe McGuire and Todd Borden placed second, losing in the finals to a team from the University of Alaska. Borden was second and McGuire fourth in the individual scoring. Natalie Havlina and Bridge Kustin finished in ninth place.

Samantha Howell, Dani Boucher, Darrell Miller and Sam Spiegel made a strong showing in the junior division of parliamentary debate. Howell and Boucher placed first with Miller and Spiegel taking fifth. In individual scoring, Miller was first, Spiegel third and Howell fifth.

Kustin, a first-year student, gave Whitman its best showing in the individual events at last weekend's tournament. She took first in the senior division of informative speaking and was one of the finalists in junior impromptu speaking.

Miller, a sophomore, placed second in the senior division of after dinner speaking. He also was a finalist in the junior prose category.

Spiegel, also a sophomore, teamed with first-year student Katie Imbeau to place second as a senior division duo. Spiegel added a third-place showing in senior communication analysis, and Imbeau was third in senior dramatic interpretation.

McGuire was a finalist in senior impromptu speaking, as was junior Mario Cava in senior after dinner speaking. Nicholas Thomas, a senior, placed seventh in senior extemporaneous speaking. Havlina took third in junior extemporaneous.

Other Whitman team highlights from earlier in the fall include:

  • Blank and Olney placing first in policy debate at a 28-team tournament hosted by Gonzaga University in Spokane. The two Missionary juniors swept through the competition with an 8-1 record, counting a victory over Gonzaga's No. 1 team in the finals. Olney also earned 1st Speaker honors at the tournament, while Blank took third place in the individual speaker scoring.

  • McGuire and Havlina placing first in parliamentary debate at the University of Alaska's Great Alaska Speakout. McGuire and Havlina were 4-1 in the preliminaries, downed the host school in the semifinals and then beat Lewis & Clark College in the finals. "Winning that tournament was a big honor for Natalie and Gabe," Hanson said. "Only the top teams from select schools are invited."

  • Olney and Blank posting a 9-2 record and placing fifth at the 126-team Kentucky National Henry Clay Tournament. They knocked off a team from Harvard early in the elimination rounds but then dropped a narrow 2-1 decision in the quarterfinals to the University of California-Berkeley, a team they had defeated in the preliminary rounds. Berkeley eventually lost in the finals to Dartmouth, the only other team that defeated Whitman during the competition, which was hosted by the the University of Kentucky.

    Later this semester, Whitman's squad will travel to tournaments at the University of Oregon, Cal-State Northridge and Wake Forest University. Whitman will host its annual high school tournament Nov. 1-3.


    Dave Holden, Whitman News Service, 509 527-5902
    Email: holden@whitman.edu