CUI’s flourishing debate team won its second national championship in three years, continuing its rise from obscurity to the top of the heap among college forensics programs. They did it, remarkably, with an almost completely new set of debaters.
Still, they were led by seniors Richard Ewell and Amanda Ozaki who were the only undefeated team among all schools at the tournament. Both Ewell and Ozaki are returning next year to help coach the team.
Konrad Hack, director of forensics, says success has come because of good recruiting and a supportive administration.
“We are able to hire the kinds of coaches we need to be national-level competitors, and we have a group of people who are willing to work hard,” he says.
CUI continues to recruit strongly from homeschool leagues, with ten of the 14 debaters coming from a homeschool background.
The team broke into the national scene by winning the tournament in 2013. In 2014 they missed first place by the narrowest possible margin. In that moment of disappointment, Hack took them aside, reminded them of the talent on the team and boldly predicted they would win the championship in 2015.
“That is a brash statement to make because you have no idea what other programs are doing, but the team took me up on my challenge and proved me right,” he says.
Hack says national tournaments are won in August rather than the spring, because it requires months of preparation.
“They are delightful, articulate, bright and willing to stand up for what they believe.”
“It’s a cumulative process,” he says. “You develop a set of argument skills and the ability to access that information. They say you need 1,500 at-bats in the minor leagues to be ready for the majors. You have to see enough pitches to know how to react.”
On the speech team side, which is separate from the debate team and involves giving prepared and impromptu speeches on various topics, CUI’s team finished eighteenth overall nationally, a big jump from the mid-forties ranking it held before. Hack is confident that the speech team will follow the debate team’s success and be a top-ten team next year.
“I’m really excited about the teams we’re returning and the teams we had this past year,” Hack says. “They’re just enjoyable to be with. If I had as much time as I wanted I would spend hours with these people. They are delightful, articulate, bright and willing to stand up for what they believe.”