CUI’s speech and debate squad continues to gather team and individual achievements as one of the nation’s top programs.
At the 2018 National Round Robin, held in March at Rice University in Houston, Judith Teruya ’18 won the title of top speaker. Later, at the National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA) Championship Tournament, she and debate partner Meghan Gleeson, a sophomore, placed in the top eight teams in the nation.
“Judith’s top speaker award is very big deal, and she and Meghan performed very well this season,” says CUI's director of debate, Amanda Ozaki-Laughon.
The squad’s success at the Aztec Invitational tournament at San Diego State University demonstrated its strength early on in 2018. Junior Denise Sprimont won top speaker, and senior team Ryan Corso-Gonzales and Benjamin Lange made the finals. CUI racked up more points than any other university by a high margin, taking first place in sweepstakes.
“It was a really strong showing,” says Amanda.
CUI also excelled in a new form of debate introduced this year called Lincoln-Douglas, which is one-on-one individual debate. At the SDSU tournament, all four debaters with winning records were from Concordia, led by junior Natasha Calilung who also took the top speaker award for Lincoln-Douglas at the Mills Invitational at Palomar College.
As the season progressed, sister team Meghan Gleeson (junior) and Kaitlyn Gleeson (sophomore) made it to octo-finals in three tournaments, an impressive display of consistency. And juniors Sprimont and David Vasquez advanced to semi-finals at The Georgia Bowman Invitational tournament at William Jewell College in Missouri. The squad won third place sweepstakes there, an overall award.
The strong 2018 start followed an equally impressive finish to the 2017-18 season, when Corso-Gonzales and Lange placed in the top sixteen teams in the nation, and CUI placed seventh in the nation in the NPDA and fifth at the National Round Robin Debate Tournament. To cap off a great year, Amanda was recognized as the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence Assistant Coach of the Year.
In the past, we had to explain where Concordia Irvine was. We are a small school but have a really big name on the debate circuit.
“In the past, we had to explain where Concordia Irvine was,” says Amanda of the program’s recent progress. “Now it’s a household name. Everyone expects us to advance to final rounds and have a winning record. We are a small school but have a really big name on the debate circuit.”
On the speech side, senior Caleb Speakman won the coveted All-American Award for academic and speech excellence, and Eva Reyes received her first National Speaker award, placing seventeenth in the nation at the American Forensics Association National Individual Events National Tournament. Reyes and Evette Jahangiri advanced multiple events to quarterfinals and semifinals at the National Speech Championships.
“Eva came in as naturally a good speaker, and once she learned the skills and techniques of speech, she has been unstoppable,” says CUI's director of forensics Yaw Kyeremateng, who was recognized as the 2018 Outstanding Coach of the year at the American Forensics Association National Individual Events Tournament.
Yaw is also pleased by CUI’s reputation for collegiality: “Other teams tell us how impressed they are with how our students relate to other students at tournaments,” he says. “Being a champion is not necessarily about getting a trophy but working hard toward the event you are passionate about, having a good work ethic and helping students from other schools.”
Amanda says CUI debaters enjoy being together and look forward to practices.
They have cultivated an environment that is more than just a trophy.
“What I see on the debate team is a culture of teamwork where we’re not just going to tournaments, but we’re all family,” she says. “The students are roommates with each other and in the same classes. They are making friendships that last a lifetime. Debate did that for them. They have cultivated an environment that is more than just a trophy. But we like the trophies, too!”