ROCK SPRINGS — The Speech and Debate Team at Western Wyoming Community College will host several other Wyoming schools and a number of out-of-state colleges and universities on campus Dec. 4 – 6 for the Winter Is Coming Invitational Tournament to conclude the first half of the 2015-16 forensics season. Participating schools are expected to include Northwest College, Colorado College, Colorado Christian University, and the University of Utah, among others, with as many as 12 teams competing in total.
“We have never really hosted a college tournament before as a team,” said Forensics Head Coach Kristy McManus. “We did try to host a tournament three years ago, and that was snowed out. This looks to be a very strong regional tournament.”
In conjunction with the tournament, the Speech and Debate Team is co-sponsoring a blanket drive with the Sweetwater County Family Justice Center. Each participating forensics team has been challenged to bring blanket donations to the tournament, and the Western campus has also been asked to contribute. Donations will be accepted outside of Room 1206, the forensics team room, at the Rock Springs campus beginning Monday, Nov. 30, and continuing through the end of finals on Tuesday, Dec. 15. Donations from the community are most welcome.
Next week’s tournament will mark the semester’s fifth competition for the Mustangs, who have routinely placed at or near the top among two-year schools, and have finished very strong overall in competition against major four-year programs, at events in Oregon, Colorado and Wyoming. Eight of the team’s ten members are Rock Springs residents, with one member from Green River and one from Ferron, Utah.
“We have, hands-down, the best team this year that Western has ever had,” McManus said. “I think that I have said that every year. We move forward and we gain strength in multiple areas every year. This team, this year, has force not only in the Debate sphere, but we also have incredible force within the Individual Events sphere.”
In September, Western competed against 22 other schools at the General “Pete” Todd Invitational hosted by the United States Air Force Academy and Colorado State University – Pueblo, where they took home first-place sweepstakes honors in the two-year division and finished second overall in individual events and second in debate only to the University of Utah. At the 2015 James “Al” Johnson Memorial Speech and Debate Tournament hosted by Colorado College in October, the Mustangs placed first in the Community College Division and third overall behind Texas Tech and the University of Utah.
Individually, the Mustangs have benefitted from consistently strong performances by all team members in competition against students from four-year schools. Team captain Tanner Petersen and her debate partner, Suzie Schmid, took first place in NPDA (policy) debate at Northwest College’s invitational tournament earlier this month, and Petersen has already qualified for the AFA-NIET National Tournament in the Informative and Persuasive Individual Event categories.
“I am ecstatic about these placements, because we are not only competing against community colleges, we are competing against major four-year institutions,” McManus said. “To have a team that is consistently placing against some of the top schools in the nation is absolutely amazing.”
She noted that team captain Petersen is the squad’s only returning sophomore. The rest are freshmen.
“That my freshmen are going into open-level competition and placing, and beating, and running with these juniors and seniors, that is a huge accomplishment,” the coach said.
Petersen, a Communication major from Ferron, Utah, had been offered a performing arts scholarship to study theatre at Western, but she opted to pursue forensics, instead.
“It wasn’t that I liked one field over the other,” Petersen explained. “It was that I found the travel appealing with the forensics team, and I also liked that I could advocate for different sources and have an interpretative aspect of it, as well as still being able to debate and do limited prep and give speeches. I found it was more well-rounded and cohesive (with regard) to my field of study.”
Freshman team member and Green River resident Sarah Sullivan, who competed on Green River High School’s speech and debate team and graduated from there in 2015, said she chose to attend Western because of its quality reputation for forensics and its proximity to home. She said the intellectual rigor of researching presentations and interpreting texts before a live audience of judges and fellow competitors provides fuel for her own academic and professional ambitions.
“It kind of opens me up as a person,” said Sullivan, who competes in events like Drama and Program Oral Interpretation. “And I get to meet these people who actually want to do something with their lives. Speech really teaches you to be an intelligent individual. I’m surrounded by these people every weekend, and it makes me a better person.
“And, I get to turn 10 minutes of a book into a living thing, and I love books,” she added.
For more information about Western’s Speech and Debate Team, the upcoming tournament, or the blanket drive, contact McManus at email@example.com.