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UW Debate Team Performs Well During January Competitions

February 2, 2017

University of Wyoming students didn’t return for classes until Jan. 23. Tell that to the UW debate team.

The debate, or forensics, team hit the road for most of January, competing in two events in Texas and another competition in Wichita, Kan.

The team’s first stop, shortly after the New Year, was the Fear and Loathing in Dallas Invitational, hosted by the University of Texas-Dallas. More than 50 teams from around the country participated.

The freshman duo of Brent Lamb, of Kansas City, Mo.; and Yumasie Hellebuick, of Salt Lake City, Utah, continued their steady improvement, posting a .500 record in the preliminary debates. The two claimed wins over the University of Kansas, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Kansas City Kansas Community College.

The veteran team of Spencer Culver, of Kansas City, Mo.; and Carter Henman, of Cheyenne, broke away from the pack early, racking up three quick victories against the University of Kansas, Concordia College and Texas-Dallas. Despite the fast start, Culver and Henman ran into trouble against Kansas State and Wichita State. Both of those teams finished in the top eight. The Pokes’ chances of advancing to the elimination rounds ended after a close debate against Missouri-Kansas City.

However, Culver and Henman’s week in Dallas was just getting started.

The William DeMougeot Debates, hosted by the University of North Texas in Denton, was the team’s next stop. As the second half of the “Texas Two-Step” tournaments, the field of competition was as intense as it had been in Dallas, says Travis Cram, UW’s director of forensics.

“Hellebuick and Lamb continued to perform well for such a young team in the open division, pulling in wins against the prestigious New York University and two teams from the University of Kansas,” Cram says. “Culver and Henman, however, were on the verge of a monster performance.”

During the preliminary debates, Culver and Henman put together a winning record with victories over Wichita State, the University of Iowa, Baylor and Missouri State University. That performance earned the duo the 11th seed headed into the single-elimination rounds.

The two proceeded to tear through the field, pulling off three consecutive upsets. The duo overtook the sixth seed from Concordia College in the round of 16; third-seed Baylor in the next round; and second-seed Wichita State in the semifinals. Their run was finally halted in the finals by the undefeated (and tournament favorite) team from the University of Central Oklahoma.

Culver and Henman also were among the tournament’s top 25 individual speakers.

“Their performance was nothing short of remarkable, reaching further than any University of Wyoming team in the history of the ‘Texas Two-Step,’” Cram says.

The final stop was the Moorehouse Debates, hosted by Wichita State University. Culver and Henman once again jumped out to a strong start, peeling off victories against Kansas, Northern Iowa, Texas and Central Oklahoma. They reached the elimination rounds for the second straight tournament, but fell in the round of 16 to the University of Kansas.

Although they were not able to repeat their performance, Henman was honored as the tournament’s 20th best individual speaker. Hellebuick and Lamb also competed, grabbing key wins against Northern Iowa, Missouri State, Johnson County Community College, the University of Texas and Central Oklahoma.

The forensics team is now sharpening its arguments and working hard for the last major policy tournament of the year, hosted by Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., Cram says.

In addition to its competition preparation, the debate team has plans for the spring semester. These include hosting the regional high school community in March for competitions on campus, as well as the inaugural UW intracampus debates, a daylong opportunity for all UW undergraduates interested in debating on campus.

“The work and effort that these students put into the activity is astonishing,” Cram says. “UW debaters sacrificed their winter break and put in the time necessary to prove to the nation that the University of Wyoming is one of the best educational institutions around.”

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