Coming off of last year’s national fourth place ranking, the Debate Team is starting the 2021-2022 season off strong with four members of the ACU Debate Team competing at the first annual Noel Memorial Tournament of Champions at LSU Shreveport.
The Tournament of Champions maintains a pool of distinguished debaters, requiring all participants must first place in a semi-finals round or higher during the 2020-2021 debate season to compete.
“The Tournament of Champions could only be people that had gotten to a semi-finals round at a tournament,” Sheila Ritchie, director of forensics and debate said. “For all tournaments, that’s pretty hard because a semi-finals round is the top four debaters. So it’s the top four debaters in that division.”
The tournament introduced a new style of debate called Long Table. The new style calls for debaters to only deliver one speech on their topic. Additionally, competitors from rival schools are placed on the same team, meaning no two members from the same school could be on the same team. This new approach to debating and team composition was vastly different from what the team was accustomed to.
“In Long Table, you only had one speech,” Emma Jaax, sophomore finance major from San Antonio and one of the four ACU debaters said. “So you were competing not only against the other team but also against your teammates. So in that moment, you had to find a way to both support your argument but also stand out individually.”
Despite the surprise switch in approach and already tense competition, three of our four debaters advanced to the semifinals. Those three would then progress even further to the final table.
Amongst the final six challengers was a representative from Morehouse, LSU-Shreveport, Park University, and three ACU students, Ethan Arbuckle, graduate student in communication from Shreveport, Louisiana, Elijah Biendinger, senior management major from San Antonio and Jaax. With three students advancing to the finals, ACU occupied half of the spaces available at the final table.
“It was a really strong team-building moment,” Jaax said. “ You know we were the only team to do that, and when you look across the other side of the table and it’s all scattered teams and you look to your right and it’s your entire team next to you, you felt much more confident. It felt like a huge win for the debate team overall.”
The tournament concluded with our students taking third, fifth and sixth place. The three also claimed over a quarter of the prize money in scholarships and awards for the ACU debate program.