Debate and forensics team claims awards at national competition

Debate team students hold up plaquesFour University of Central Arkansas students, all UCA Debate and Forensics team members, won individual awards at the International Public Debate Association (IDPA) championship tournament on April 9-11 in Abilene, Texas. 

The tournament capped the 2021-22 season for the team and took place at the Abilene Christian University campus. The team is coached by Anthony McMullen, an associate professor of business law and director of forensics in the School of Communication.

“Before leaving for nationals, I told the students to have fun,” said McMullen. “This year, we lacked the team size to be competitive for any of the team awards. But I knew that all of them were capable of doing well in the tournament and bringing home individual accolades. It was a good showing, and I’m proud of the team.”

At the championship, senior Jayce Burney won first place in the professional division, sixth place professional speaker award, and fourth place speaker in the Team IPDA Division. Senior Aurora King won sixth place speaker in the junior varsity division and received recognition as a tournament octafinalist. Senior Adam Cox won second place speaker in the varsity division. He reached the elimination rounds with a 5-3 preliminary round record and finished as a tournament quarterfinalist.

Junior CJ Parrish won the third-place IPDA Speaker Award and was a varsity division octafinalist. He ended the season as the fourth-ranked debater, as he reached the elimination rounds at every tournament that UCA participated in during the season. 

The championship marked the team’s first in-person tournament in two years since the start of the pandemic. Along with the competitors, senior Sian Fox and junior Grey Rodery accompanied the team and served as competition judges. 

“The opportunity to travel is essential to the success of most debate teams, including ours,” McMullen said. “Students often get more out of their interaction with other schools than anything else, and it is difficult to replicate in an online environment.”