Even a last-minute change to a new debate format didn’t stop Walters State from earning several awards at Middle Tennessee State University’s Naveen “Scott” Pejaver Memorial Forensic Tournament held in Murfreesboro this month.
The Walters State Debate Team usually competes in parliamentary debate, but when they learned four days before the tournament that no other colleges had entered the tournament in that format, they decided to try something new. Walters State entered a large field of teams competing in the International Public Debate Association’s two-person team format. They finished second overall among the community colleges that entered the field with numerous four-year schools.
Chelsea Hendrix, of Sevierville, and Savannah Sineath, of Morristown, advanced to novice finals. Isaiah Long, of Morristown, was honored as the fourth-place speaker in the novice division.
“The vast majority of our debaters have never debated at any level before, so it’s no surprise to me that they were willing to take on this new challenge on short notice,” said Robert E. Pratt, II, assistant professor of speech communications who serves as debate coach at the college.
“The debaters’ success speaks well of the work ethic they consistently show in our practices,” he said.
Several former Walters State debater students who have earned scholarships at MTSU also played a key role in helping Walters State transition this week. Five Walters State alumni compete for MTSU this year. Joshua Hendricks graduated last year after earning both a regular season and national tournament championship while debating for the Blue Raiders. He attended Walters State practice in the days leading up to the tournament to help them quickly transition to the new format.
“We are thankful for Joshua and our other alumni who help us continue our tradition of mentoring new debaters,” said Pratt.