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UW Debate Team Concludes Season with Strong Showings

April 24, 2015

University of Wyoming debate team members Mary Marcum and Hunter McFarland registered UW’s best performance since 2011 at the recent 69th annual National Debate Tournament at the University of Iowa.

Marcum, from Omaha, Neb., and McFarland, from Twin Falls, Idaho, claimed unanimous decisions against Vanderbilt, Texas, James Madison and Weber State universities before falling against eighth-ranked Georgetown University in a split decision in the season-ending competition.

“These two women have set themselves up for a breakout season next year,” says Travis Cram, director of forensics in the UW Department of Communication and Journalism.

UW debaters also scored well in another national championship tournament, the Cross-Examination Debate Association (CEDA) finale, hosted by Wichita State University in mid-March.

Juniors Bria Frame of Kalispell, Mont., and John Fritz of Fairfield, Texas, contributed victories against Cornell, Cal State-Fullerton and Wichita State. Sophomores Courtney Thomson-Lichty of Casper and Carter Henman of Cheyenne also chipped in wins over the University of Washington, Western Connecticut and Lindenwood University.

The biggest performance of the weekend belonged to the duo of Ben Berry, a senior from Cheyenne, and Spencer Culver, a sophomore from Kansas City, Mo. Berry and Culver reached the elimination rounds after defeating Baylor, Rutgers, Oklahoma and Western Connecticut. Although they lost in a split decision to UNLV in the first elimination round, it was a great final tournament for Berry, who has spent the past five years as one of the squad’s leaders, Cram says.

CEDA, one of the nation’s largest debate organizations, also recognized UW students for their academic excellence, collegiality, leadership and competitive accomplishments. Marcum was recognized as a National Debate Scholar, magna cum laude. Frame and Fritz were named National Debate Scholars, cum laude. McFarland also received a National Debate Scholar award.

CEDA also honors 30 students from around the country by designating them as Debate All-Americans. Marcum and Berry were named to the All-American team.

In addition to their competitive success, Marcum and McFarland were selected as Collegiate Scholars by the Women’s Debate Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building both competitive success and vibrant community for women in high school and intercollegiate debate. According to board member Sarah Partlow Lefevre, the scholars are an elite group of 18 women selected “based on competitive success, community spirit and their dedication to and passion for debate.”

“It is a great distinction to have two chosen from the same university,” Partlow Lefevre says, with only Wyoming and the University of Kansas having more than one student selected.

Marcum and McFarland will join women debaters from Northwestern, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Trinity, Wake Forest and Whitman this summer in Sandstone, Minn., for the annual Women’s Debate Institute session.

The end of competition has not meant an end to the debate team’s activities.

First, UW debaters have participated in efforts to establish a non-discrimination ordinance for the city of Laramie, with Frame serving as a member of the steering committee responsible for shaping the ordinance and coordinating with media.

Second, the team will host a public debate April 30 at 7 p.m. in Room 121 of the College of Business with Regis University’s debate team over marijuana and drug policy. The event will feature post-debate commentary from state Sen. Chris Rothfuss, UW College of Law Professor Stephen Easton and Jeffrey Pope, an associate with the law firm of Holland and Hart. The public is invited.

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