In the past four years, CUI’s debate squad has gone from “Who?” to “Wow!", winning the national tournament last year and taking second place this year in spite of having graduated seven of its strongest debaters.
“It was a fantastic year,” says Konrad Hack, director of forensics and assistant professor of communication at CUI. “We have exceptional debaters and very, very talented coaches.”
Chase Harrington, a senior whose two-person team went undefeated and won the open parliamentary debate track at a major national tournament in Stockton, says nobody was sure what to expect this year given that Concordia’s top debaters had graduated.
"We outperformed people’s expectations," he says. “To miss first place at the national tournament by one point during a rebuilding year is remarkable. We're grateful for the success we had.”
The squad’s success, even in a “down” year, comes from the students’ commitment to research and practice, says coach Kevin Calderwood.
“I was very impressed with the team’s trajectory this year and how hard the students worked to get themselves there,”
he says. “They all did their assignments and were in the squad room for twelve hours a day in the run-up to nationals.”
More than hard work, CUI has a reputation on the debate circuit for unity and respect.
“People have told me how blown away they are by how our team carries itself,” says Harrington. “At some schools it's competitive and people aren't willing to help each other out. On our team everyone mutually builds each other up. We carry ourselves like a family. That's the leadership and Christian qualities Kevin and Konrad display. Even though we come from range of backgrounds we get along extremely well and value one another's success.”
At the National Parliamentary Debate Association championship tournament hosted by Northern Arizona University in March 2014, Concordia brought four two-person teams instead of eight as last year. Yet each team advanced into elimination rounds, going 7-1, 6-2, 6-2 and 5-3. Concordia was one of just three schools to advance four teams into elimination rounds, but the squad missed first place by the thinnest possible margin — a single vote in the overall point total.
“Next year,” Hack told his team afterward, “is our year.”
Hack, who recruits strategically from community colleges and homeschool debate leagues, says the debaters coming to CUI next year “are incredible. We’re terribly excited about having them here.” Some on the debate circuit are even calling CUI’s group “a legendary team in the making,” he says.
“We’re pretty excited about the future,” says Calderwood, who has gone from part-time to full-time coach and is a big part of Concordia’s debating success, according to Hack.
Sophomore Joshua Vannoy says the squad has grown stronger and more unified through the tournaments.
“We know how everyone works,” he says. “Next year we’ll have things ready to go so it’ll be a lot easier to push into full gear going into the national tournament.”