WALLA WALLA, Wash. - Chris Gorman and Bridget Kustin have raised the bar of excellence for Whitman College parliamentary debate duos.

Gorman and Kustin won their third consecutive intercollegiate debate tournament last weekend at Pacific University, beating a team from the University of Oregon in the finals.

Gorman, a senior politics major from Woodburn, Ore., and Kustin, a junior English major from Sherman Oaks, Calif., opened the fall debate season by winning the Reed College tournament in late September. They made it two straight by winning the Lewis & Clark College tournament Oct. 10-12. In capturing last weekend's tournament, they ran their win-loss record, including preliminary rounds, to a sparkling 27-3.

"No other Whitman parliamentary debate team has opened the season by winning three consecutive tournaments," Whitman debate team coach Jim Hanson said. "They rank as the best we've ever had in parliamentary debate."

Gorman and Kustin placed 11th last spring at the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence (NPTE) in Portland, Ore.

Based on their performance thus far this fall, the Whitman duo could be ranked among the top three teams in the nation when the next round of NPTE point standings are released. Their days among the elite teams in the nation, however, are numbered. Kustin, who has a conflict with the next scheduled tournament (Washington University, St. Louis, Mo., Nov. 13-17), will study off-campus next semester, traveling to India.

Gorman will have a new partner, junior Chandra Carlisle (Ridgefield, Wash.), at the Washington University tournament. Beginning with the spring semester, Hanson said, Gorman will probably debate with junior Scott Thompson, a former Whitman student body president who is studying this semester in France.

Despite missing half the season, Gorman and Thompson will stand a good chance of earning enough points to gain invitation to the NPTE tournament, Hanson said. The tournament, slated for mid-March at the University of California-Berkeley, is limited to the 48 top-ranked teams in the nation.

Carlisle debated in this fall's first three tournaments with junior Kathryn Bergh (Bainbridge Island, Wash.). Their best performance came at the Reed tournament, where they advanced as far as the semifinals. "Chandra and Kathryn also have a legitimate chance to qualify for the national championship tournament," Hanson said.

In policy debate, Whitman's top team this fall has been junior Beth Schueler (Walnut Creek, Calif.) and sophomore Eric Suni (Prairie Village, Kan.). They came within a single mistake of winning the Lewis & Clark tournament, falling in the finals to a strong team from Gonzaga University.

"Beth and Eric were clearly winning in the finals until a late mistake cost them the victory," Hanson said. "Beth and Eric are very good but still relatively inexperienced. They will get stronger as they learn to eliminate the mistakes."

Suni finished as the first speaker in the Lewis & Clark tournament, while Schueler was the second speaker. Judges award each participant in each debate a certain number of speaker points, based on individual performance and contribution.

Competing at Gonzaga in their first tournament of the fall, Schueler and Suni upset a team from the University of California-Berkeley, but then lost in the semifinals.

In their toughest test of the fall, Schueler and Suni compiled a 5-3 win-loss record at a national tournament hosted by the University of Kentucky. They missed advancing to the elimination rounds by a single speaker point.

Next up for Whitman's policy debate teams is a national tournament at Wake Forest University Nov. 14-18.

Policy and parliamentary debate differ in a number of respects. Policy debate uses the same topic all year, involves intensive, specific research, and is geared toward an expert audience. Parliamentary debate uses a variety of topics, makes use of broad, less in-depth research, and is geared toward a lay audience.

In individual events competition this fall, freshman Stephen Reed (Kennewick, Wash.) made a strong showing at Pacific, placing first in dramatic interpretation. He also was a finalist in programmed oral interpretation. Other Whitman finalists in dramatic interpretation were Kathryn Bergh and junior Holly Black (Bellevue, Wash.).

Whitman also had a number of finalists in the individual events at the Lewis & Clark tournament. Two first-year students, Tyler Kent (Redwood City, Calif.) and Teri Swartz (Silverthorne, Colo.), were finalists in dramatic duo interpretation, as were freshman Chris Chamness (Portland, Ore.) in after dinner speaking and senior Patrick Carter (Pukalani, Hawaii) in communication analysis.