Forensics Team returns to action

1b3c8be7-3051-4868-b223-65e255d364e6.jpgThe Azusa Pacific Speech and Debate Team, also known as the Forensics Team, competed in its second tournament of the semester in Long Beach Jan. 24-26.

Although the entire Speech and Debate Team participated the previous weekend at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa for its first tournament of the semester, only debate members attended the Long Beach event.

The tournament was entirely parliamentary debate style, which means team members were presented with an issue and given 15 minutes to prepare. Topics at the Long Beach competition included decreasing the sales and usage of e-cigarettes, removing dams from the lower Snake River in Washington state, and the current drought crisis in California, according to freshman political science major and Forensics Team member Neal Gockel.

The Long Beach tournament was the first time this school year that nobody from APU made the semifinals or finals for any event, according to Gockel.

“Normally we focus on large issues, like U.S. policy on marriage, that are very relevant and hostly contested,” Gockel said. “But this tournament there were a lot of … smaller-level issues that nobody knew about.”

Looking forward, Gockel said the team’s takeaway from the tournament was that members needed to start looking at “the smaller issues.”

“And on top of that, it’s OK to step outside the bounds a little bit or take a different approach to ideas and concepts we’re talking about,” he said.

The previous weekend, the entire Forensics Team competed in the Orange Coast College tournament, where Gockel broke into semifinals and finals for parliamentary debate, and freshman political science major and Forensics Team member Tess Scherkenback won finals in a Lincoln-Douglas debate in the highest difficulty level.

Lincoln-Douglas Debate is a one-on-one contest on a preselected topic by the National Forensics Association. The 2013-2014 topic is primary and secondary education reform in the U.S., and members may prepare in advance for these debates.

The two straight weekends of tournaments for the debaters have been physically and mentally exhausting, Scherkenback said.

“You’re literally talking for 12 hours straight a day,” she said. “It’s really draining.”

But despite the exhaustion, team members said they still love competing.

I can definitely see my own improvement with my speaking skills, writing skills and informational skills,” junior communication studies major and Forensics Team member Briana Obien said.

The debate side currently has nine members, while the speech squad has three. Before Director of Debate Joshua Kammert joined APU last fall, there was only a speech coach, but no set debate coach, according to Kammert and Gockel. This spring the speech coach left, so Kammert and Director of Forensics Amy Jung have been coaching the speech team, according to Kammert.

Kammert said the speech group is phasing out next year and the APU team is becoming purely focused on debate. Although the debaters didn’t make it to semifinals last weekend, he said he is “endlessly proud” of them.

“They are learning quickly and I continually get comments back from judges how great it is to have debaters who are polite in rounds. … Being vindictive is a tactic that has been used in the past by other teams,” Kammert said. “[The judges said] we remain polite and we have good attitudes even when we have a rough tournament, when no one broke semifinals. My team has amazingly good attitude, and we remember ‘God First.'”

Kammert said the performance reflects the ultimate goals of being representatives of Christ and showing “an intellectual and loving side” of Christianity.

The team attends eight to 10 tournaments per school year, according to Kammert. The next tournament, again only for debate members, will be Feb. 8-9 at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, Calif.