Debate takes team around the world

Gabriella Chikhani
Staff Writer

During November, the La Verne Speech and Debate team was successful at numerous tournaments in England, Canada and Northern California.

Seven of La Verne’s teams competed at Los Medanos College to debate against teams from across California. Three La Verne teams made it to the final round. Tanner Long, junior biology major, and Joanna Mrsich, freshman political science and speech communication major, won the tournament.

There are 33 students on the team made up of six partnerships, ranging from team A to team F– team A being the top rank. Each team is composed of two debaters and there are also student judges who attend tournaments as well.

After getting the motion, which is the topic they will debate, debaters have 15 minutes to come up with their cases and plan their seven minutes speeches.

“It depends on the team and the topic but most of the time it’s very high stress and exciting,” Melanie Nadon, team captain and senior communication and gender law and policy major said. “You have 15 minutes to figure your life out or you’re going to lose.”

Nadon and Natalie Holland, vice president of Lordsburg Debate team and senior communications major, are team A and placed second in the Hugill Cup at the University of Alberta, Canada. Nadon won second best individual speaker and Holland won seventh best speaker.

Nadon says she has to wear her pink, leopard print blouse for good luck.

“I had three tournaments that I didn’t take the shirt to because I got really tired of all of my pictures on Facebook having me in that shirt and I didn’t win any of them,” Nadon said. “I started wearing it again and now every time that I do, I do well.”

Holland took public speaking with Rob Ruiz, director of forensics and team coach, who invited her to join the debate team.

“It was nice to have someone believe in me and when I joined it became that community that I fit into and once you find that place on campus, you stick with it,” Holland said.

Jake Riggs, freshman speech communication and political science double major, took 10th Best Novice Speaker in England.

Riggs and his partner, Gia Karpouzis, junior philosophy major, were only one point away from breaking to the quarter finals.

“This was the first time in a long time that we, La Verne, were able to bring three teams to England because it’s difficult to get in and usually they cap it at two. La Verne has had very good success at the Oxford tournament to where this year they allowed three teams to come,” Ruiz said.

La Verne is one of nine American schools to ever make the finals of the World University Debate Championships and will be sending Team A and B and Khan on Christmas evening to compete against 400 other teams in the tournament held this year in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

“The World Championships have nine rounds over three days,” Ruiz said. “Now that is a marathon, not a sprint.”

The spring season of debate will begin the first weekend of February and conclude in April with Nationals at the University of Alaska. La Verne is one of the few universities who hold a national title placing them on an exclusive list alongside Harvard and Yale.

Gabriella Chikhani can be reached at

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