October 13, 2010

Debate team opens season with positive results

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Southern Illinois University Carbondale debate team kicked off the 2010-2011 season in strong style with a top-three finish at University of California at Berkeley, host of the first major national debate of the year.

The duo of Brandon Merrell, a senior from Snohomish, Wash., majoring in economics and political science, and Mike Selck, a sophomore from Blue Springs, Mo., majoring in speech communication, finished third out of 60 teams at the tournament.

“The University of California at Berkeley tournament is generally considered to be the most prestigious tournament of the semester,” Todd Graham, director of debate, said. “So, to finish in third place out of 60 teams is a great start for the year.”

Graham noted that Merrell and Selck are debating together for the first time, and are facing many duos that have at least one season together already. “(The prior experience as a duo) gives those teams a decided edge, especially at the beginning of the season,” he said.

The other duo from SIUC is another new team. Ben Campbell, a freshman from Springfield, Mo., majoring in economics and political science, and Andrew Thomas, a junior from Stockton, Calif., majoring in English and philosophy, finished ninth at the tournament.

“Ben and Andrew are both new at SIUC,” Graham said. “Seeing them start the year so well gives me a lot of hope for their future.”

The Campbell-Thomas duo started their season at a William Jewell College tournament, where they placed second in their first collegiate debate.

Graham said he anticipates a tough season, judging from the level of talent among several of SIUC’s top rivals already this year.

“We had a terrific start to the season, but we still have some work to do,” he said. “As you know, previous teams at SIUC have set the bar pretty high. We have finished first, second and third at the national championships the past three years. Each year, we begin with one goal in mind -- to compete for the national championship. As of right now, if we keep on working hard, we should be right in the mix.”

The SIUC Saluki Debate Team competes September through March as a member of the National Parliamentary Debate Association and the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence.