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UW Debate Team Extends Streak of Reaching ‘Big Dance’ to 14 Years

April 5, 2017

Even the University of Wyoming debate team qualified for March Madness’ “Big Dance,” receiving an invitation to the National Debate Tournament (NDT) for the 14th consecutive year.

Hosted by the University of Kansas, the UW team of fourth-year debaters Spencer Culver, from Kansas City, Mo., and Carter Henman, of Cheyenne, competed in the national tournament in late March.

“Although Culver and Henman entered the tournament as underdogs, they performed admirably,” says Travis Cram, director of forensics in the UW Department of Communication and Journalism.

The Pokes claimed victories against Georgetown University, James Madison University and the University of Texas-Dallas.

“Even when they came up short, they ensured it was an extremely close debate, forcing split decisions against Gonzaga University and Binghamton,” Cram says.

He adds how difficult it is to qualify for the NDT.

“As the final seed to qualify from District II, Carter and Henman just sneaked across the finish line. Reaching the National Debate Tournament is exceptionally difficult, with only 78 total teams around the country being admitted,” Cram says. “Qualification alone is an enormous accomplishment that reflects the excellence of every single student on UW’s debate team, not only those who compete directly.”

During the regular spring semester season, the UW debate team competed at the Owen L. Coon Invitational, hosted by Northwestern University. The freshman team of Yumasie Hellebuick, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Brent Lamb, Kansas City, Mo., continued its steady improvement with wins against tough opponents such as Gonzaga University, California State-Fullerton and Concordia College.

Culver and Carter posted victories against Baylor, the University of Georgia, Central Oklahoma and Missouri State, to give them the four wins needed to qualify for nationals. They narrowly missed a fifth victory, and the elimination rounds, in a close final debate against the University of California.

Both UW teams were back in action a few weeks later at the Western Speech Communication Association annual forensics tournament, hosted by the University of Utah. Hellebuick and Lamb earned key victories against teams from Utah and Northwest College in Powell.

Henman and Culver had a strong tournament, amassing a 5-1 record in the preliminary rounds, and eventually reaching the Final Four, where they were defeated by the eventual champions from Utah. The pair was named the tournament’s top two individual speakers.

“All four debaters and assistant coaches are returning next year, so expect big things from this team,” Cram says.

The UW debate squad will host an alumni reunion June 10-11 in the Wyoming Union Family Room, where the fifth class will be inducted into the Wyoming Debate Hall of Fame.

The event is free and open to the public, but an RSVP is requested. Donations will be accepted at the door to help cover catering costs.

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