February 02, 2011

Debate team captures three tournament titles

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Southern Illinois University Carbondale Debate Team won three of four tournaments during a recent competition tour.

The team traveled to tournaments hosted by Texas Tech University, Colorado College, the University of Utah, and Northern Arizona University.

The SIUC pair of Brandon Merrell, a senior from Snohomish, Wash., majoring in economics and political science, and Mike Selck, s sophomore from Blue Springs, Mo., majoring in speech communication, won at a Texas Tech University tournament hosted at and in conjunction with Colorado College. The duo were part of approximately 90 teams from universities and colleges around the nation, competing at a tournament Todd Graham, director of debate, described as one of the most competitive of the year.

At that tournament, Merrell and Selck faced down the one duo that has provided them with a consistent challenge throughout the season, winning the final debate on a 2-1 decision from the judges.

“It was the biggest win of the year, no doubt,” Selck said. “The proudest moment of the entire tournament was during the final round, right before the judges announced the decision, when the judges personally thanked Brandon and I for advancing the very activity. They liked our arguments so much and our argumentative style that they said we were an honor to judge.”

“Being part of the SIUC team can be intimidating,” Merrell said. “It’s an institution which has won nationals, won (the University of California at) Berkeley (tournament), and which has consistently finished very strongly for years. A win at this particular tournament was the only major tournament not on that list, so being able to add something to the legacy of this team is an incredible feeling.”

The team also won tournaments at Northern Arizona and the University of Utah. This time, Merrell and Selck were joined at the winner’s podium by the duo of 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.

“I cannot remember the last time two different teams from the same school won tournaments on the same weekend,” Graham said, adding that this is the first tournament win for the Campbell/Thomas duo. “When SIUC wins a debate tournament, it is not a fluke. SIUC wins because we work hard, we research like beasts, and we have some of the smartest students I have ever encountered.”

The team also includes graduate assistant coaches Kevin Calderwood, a member of the SIUC debate team that won the national championship in 2008, and Kyle Cheesewright.