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UA debate team beats competition in invitational

Regan Norton
Computer science junior Todd Wickizer, left, and journalism and biochemistry freshman Steven Spooner, right, show off their first place prizes from the ASU Debate Invitational outside the BIO5 building on Wednesday, Feb. 4.

The UA’s Competitive Speech and Debate Club swept Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Invitational, Junior Varsity Speaker Awards Division , held Jan. 17-19. 

The club’s two founding members, Todd Wickizer and Steven Spooner, independently financed the Tempe trip and flawlessly defeated rival teams from Sacramento State University, Weber State University, University of Utah and ASU.   

The fledgling club funded last month’s trip out-of-pocket while having no coach and lacking the legitimacy of a debate team, so Spooner said he was anticipating nothing but defeat.

“We really expected to go up there and get absolutely murdered,” Spooner said. “But every single judge that saw us voted for us.” 

Wickizer, Speech and Debate Club president, said he was excited but stressed out when heading to the invitational. Wickizer explained he felt unprepared and ill-equipped to compete against 30-member teams within their junior varsity division. 

But utilizing the experience the students acquired together at Salpointe Catholic High School and the UA afforded them their landslide victory, he said.  

“We used the skills we learned in high school and the skills that we’ve been practicing since we got to college,” Wickizer said, “and we were able to do a clean sweep of the JV league.” 

Wickizer said anticipating the results of their final round was quite the nail-biter. When considering Sacramento State’s skillful team and the UA’s underdog ranking, the win came with feelings of satisfaction and elation, he said. 

The club is set to meet tomorrow at 6 p.m. in the Main Library, Room A105, to kick off its weekly casual debate program, which is a noncompetitive open house forum for all UA students interested in practicing basic debate skills. 

According to Spooner, the club’s focal practice will be policy debate, which is when teams of two hypothetically advocate for or against a change in U.S. policy.

The amount of research involved in debate club membership is astronomical, but it is one of the best educational opportunities that students can have, he added.

Spooner said this semester he is looking forward to bolstering club membership and potentially competing against Sacramento State from March 6-8. 

He said the club left such a prepossessing impact on Sacramento State, it offered to pay for a portion of the competition fees for the UA outfit.

For Wickizer, involvement in public debate is inherently important, so he is attempting to set a solid foundation for the Speech and Debate Club, he said. 

Wickizer said any Speech and Debate Club member will sharpen their communication skills necessary for job interviews and can potentially foster their ability to make positive life choices.  

“It teaches you how to take a very firm stance on both sides of the issue and think biologically,” he said, “and that allows people to make better decisions.” 

Wickizer said that hopefully the UA will endorse the club so its members can afford to travel and compete nationally, although basic beginnings rooted in education and personal enjoyment will suffice.

“The momentary goal is to start small, get people involved, teach people about debate and have a good time,” Wickizer said. 

Students interested in joining UA’s Competitive Speech and Debate Club can visit, and either email Wickizer or click “Join Organization.”


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