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UW Debate Team Participating in Own ‘March Madness’

March 22, 2018
bucking horse on block
The UW debate team, using technology available on campus, created these 3-D printed trophies to award the top high schools during the squad’s “Pokes Invitational” tournament for 14 Wyoming high school teams last month. (UW Photo)

The University of Wyoming debate team is participating in its own “March Madness.”

In coming weeks, students will attend Pacific Lutheran’s Western Regional Championship and then the U.S. Universities Debating Championship tournament, both for British Parliamentary (BP) debate. The Pokes also will compete in policy at the “open,” or non-qualification, Cross-Examination Debate Association (CEDA) championship and the qualification-only National Debate Tournament (NDT).

Seniors Spencer Culver, of Kansas City, Mo., and Carter Henman, of Cheyenne, along with sophomore Brent Lamb, of Kansas City, Mo., and freshman Riley Talamantes, of Boise, Idaho, will conclude their seasons at the prestigious NDT.

This is the 15th consecutive year the Pokes have qualified for the NDT, but only the second time since 2013 that UW has sent two teams to the elite tournaments.

For the team to attend the tournament, the squad must raise funds for travel expenses, says Travis Cram, UW director of forensics.

“Our first two weeks of fundraising were successful, bringing in 65 percent of our needed funds,” Cram says. “Every dollar helps cover costs for every one of our students, not just those who have the honor to attend the NDT.”

He adds that, recently, Laramie Sen. Chris Rothfuss took the debate team’s fundraising campaign to the floor of the Wyoming Senate, raising more than $500 from several senators.

To contribute to the team’s fundraising efforts, visit the team’s funding website at

At the CEDA tournament, Henman and Culver reached the first elimination round. Both were later designated as members of CEDA's All-American squad. The pair also won awards for academic excellence. Sophomore Yumasie Hellebuick, from Salt Lake City, Utah, competed with a partner from The New School in New York and recorded four wins. Talamantes and Lamb reached the second round at the same tournament.

Earlier this semester, in BP debate, the team was in Chicago, Ill., for the Loyola University "Rambler" tournament. Partners Kenna Noble, a sophomore from Torrington, and junior Ben Chalstrom, from Cheyenne, had a successful debut performance, narrowly missing the elimination rounds by three points. Noble was named the tournament's 20th-best speaker.

Juniors Amari Bertagnolli, from Rock Springs, and Spencer Keturi, from Portland, Ore., were close behind Noble and Chalstrom, narrowly missing the cut-off as well. Partners Faith Pierson, a freshman from Casper, and Bryce Reher, a sophomore, from Colorado Springs, Colo., also gained some valuable experience as a new partnership.

The UW squad hosted 14 high schools from around the state for the first annual "Pokes Invitational" high school debate tournament last month. The team also presented the winning teams unique awards using technology on the UW campus to create 3-D printed trophies.

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