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Students take home national debate championship

March 21, 2014

  • McKay Campbell ’14 and Emily Halter ’14
    Aaron Marineau

Fifty-six of the nation’s best parliamentary debate teams arrived in Flagstaff, Arizona, for the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence (NPTE), but only one team left as national champions—Lewis & Clark’s McKay Campbell ’14 and Emily Halter ’14.

Campbell and Halter defeated Whitman College in the final debate to claim the championship. It is the first time that the Pioneers have won the NPTE title, and the first national championship for the forensics team since 2005. Also recognized at the tournament were the Lewis & Clark team of Emily Tribble ’15 and Brigitte Tripp ’16, who finished at No. 25.

“The NPTE is a rigorous test of diligent research and debating skill,” said Joe Gantt, director of forensics. “Teams must qualify for the tournament through regular season performances, and those attending are provided 18 debate topics for which to prepare. This year’s topics included U.S. domestic energy production, regulation of environmental pollutants, and U.S. military and humanitarian aid to Africa.”

Entering the tournament as the number six team in the nation, Campbell and Halter easily qualified for the double elimination part of the tournament. After losing their first debate they faced difficult odds, as they needed to win seven straight debates to claim the title. After wins over teams from Whitman College, Concordia University, and the University of Puget Sound, they were paired to debate the top-ranked team in the nation from Southern Illinois University. Arguing against U.S. investment in synthetic gas production, Campbell and Halter defeated SIU on a 2-1 judges’ decision to move onto the quarterfinals.

After defeating another Whitman team in quarterfinals, Campbell and Halter advanced to the semifinals, where they defeated Northern Arizona and earned a chance to debate for the national title against the third-ranked team in the nation from Whitman.

Campbell and Halter were assigned to the affirmative on the topic, “The United States should ratify and implement the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.” Arguing that the treaty would improve the chemical industry and science diplomacy, Lewis & Clark won four out of seven ballots from the judges, securing the national championship.

“This is the ultimate accomplishment for any parliamentary debate team—to take on a field of 56 of the best teams in the nation and come out victorious,” Gantt said. “This only happened because of the intense passion and dedication that McKay and Emily have for this activity. In preparation for this tournament, they and our coaching staff worked for hours to perfect our research and skills, and their execution was brilliant. Every member of the Pioneer community has reason to be proud of this team and their efforts.”

One tournament remains for the Pioneers—the National Parliamentary Debate Association championship, which is open to all teams in the nation. That tournament will give the forensics program the opportunity to compete for an overall school national championship.


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