February 08, 2012

Debate team captures two tournament titles

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- It was Super Bowl weekend for many around the country, but for the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Debate Team, it was crunch time.

SIU Carbondale walked away with wins in both of the last two tournaments of the regular debate season.  The Round Robin Tournament of Champions is an invitation-to-top-teams-only event, while the Sunset Cliffs Classic is open to all collegiate debate teams. Approximately 70 teams from universities around the country participated. Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, Calif., hosts both tournaments.

The tournament-winning duo on the SIU Carbondale Debate team is Ben Campbell (Springfield, Mo.) a junior political science major, and Mike Selck (Blue Springs, Mo.), a junior speech communication major.

SIU Carbondale is the only team in history to win both tournaments in the same year, and it has done so three times.  The other two times, Kevin Calderwood, now a graduate assistant working with the SIU Carbondale debate program, was on the team.

“Ben and Mike say they are in good company (winning both tournaments),” he said.  “It’s nice of them to say that, but the truth is it’s me in good company.  If they keep this up, they’ll break all my records.”

The junior team of Sid Rehg (Swansea), a junior speech communication major, and Josh Rivera (Chicago), a freshman political science major, put in a good showing at the Sunset Cliffs Classic tournament, finishing with a tie for ninth place.  Rehg earned an individual award for third best individual debater in the tournament.

Todd Graham, director of debate at SIU Carbondale, described the weekend as “sleep-deprived” and “relentless.”

“All I do is put the machine on autopilot and watch the brilliant people around me do their jobs,” he said.  “Our University’s debate team won two more incredibly difficult and highly prestigious tournaments -- yeah, they’re awesome.”

The SIU Carbondale Debate Team will spend the next month, before the national championship debates, in intensive research sessions to prepare.  In 2008, the team won the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence, otherwise known as the national championships, placing second in 2009 and third in 2010, among other honors.  In 2008, the team received special recognition and honor from the governor of Illinois, and was introduced and honored on the floors of both the Illinois House and Illinois Senate.