October 07, 2009

Debate team is off to a successful start

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Southern Illinois University Carbondale debate team proved in the first two debates of the 2009-2010 season that success is here to stay.

The team bounded into this year’s season with a first place and a second place in national tournaments.

The first tournament of the year was at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash. Brandon Merrell, a junior dual major in political science and economics from Snohomish, Wash. and Michael Selck, a freshman from Blue Springs, Mo., majoring in speech communication, finished second, going undefeated until the final round.

Director of Debate Todd Graham said, “This was an impressive showing since both debaters are new to SIUC, and Mike is only a freshman. They were only debating together to give Mike some experience before I set up the permanent teams for the rest of the year. So they definitely exceeded my expectations of them.”

The next debate tournament was at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo. Graham described that tournament as the “big season opener” for parliamentary debate.

The duo of Merrell and Kevin Calderwood of Chesterfield, Mo., now a senior and an important part of the successful seasons the past two years for SIUC, went undefeated in the tournament.

“I think all the best teams from across the country were there,” Graham said. “Of the top 20 debate teams in the country, I’d say that at least 15 or 16 were at William Jewell for that tournament.”

Merrell and Calderwood beat a team from Texas Tech University to win the tournament.

“This was a huge win -- the competition was so tough,” Graham said. “To win the season- opening big national tournament put SIUC on the map once again as the team to beat in intercollegiate debate. Kevin and Brandon are a new team, so to put them together and see them succeed so quickly was pretty amazing. It was pretty cool to have everyone at the first big tournament recognize SIUC as the champion.”

Selck and Ben Reid, a temporary partner from Longview Community College, finished ninth overall.

“I couldn’t be happier with how we started this year,” Graham said. “We have been to two tournaments, and we have a championship and second place to show for it. Wow.”

SIUC finished first in the nation at the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence in the 2007-2008 season, and second in the nation for the 2008-2009 season.