Debate team wins state overall sweepstakes




May 2, 2014

CONTACT: Anthony McMullen, (501) 852-0695,; Dr. Larry Dilday, (501) 852-2348,


By Brandon Riddle

College of Fine Arts and Communication Media Office

CONWAY – The University of Central Arkansas International Public Debate Association (IPDA) debate team had its most successful season since 2007 this spring.

Anthony McMullen, director of forensics, said the highlight of the spring 2014 season was the team winning Arkansas State Overall Sweepstakes at the Southern Forensics Championship in Hattiesburg, Miss.

“This was an award that we have had our eye on for years, and despite our best efforts we had come up short,” he said. “There are some amazing debate and forensics programs in the state, so winning this award is no small feat.”

A close second in terms of recognition, McMullen said, was the team receiving fourth place varsity division program season sweepstakes.

McMullen and Dr. Larry Dilday, assistant director of forensics and director of individual events, coach the IPDA team.

IPDA debate is an unrehearsed debate style that emphasizes real-world persuasion skills. Debaters learn their topic 30 minutes before each round starts, and debaters can expect to debate any topic.

At the Southern Forensics Championship, the debate team also earned Arkansas State Debate Sweepstakes and third place Debate Sweepstakes.

McMullen said UCA’s debate team is unquestionably one of the premier programs in IPDA.

“Dr. Dilday and I are very proud of the work that this team has put in this year,” he said. “I’ve already started thinking about next year, as I believe that we have the potential to do even better. And we are always looking for people to join this team.”

In addition to the team awards, the following students received awards at the Southern Forensics Championship on Jan. 31-Feb. 2 at William Carey University:

• Junior Joanna Averill – Seventh place and Arkansas Champion in Persuasive Speaking; fifth place and Arkansas Champion in Impromptu Speaking; Poetry Arkansas Champion; and Arkansas Quadrathon Champion

• Freshman Danielle Casey and senior Stephanie Gray – Team IPDA semifinalist and Arkansas Champion

• Danielle Casey – Team IPDA Arkansas Champion Speaker

• Senior Rickie Mangrum – Novice Octafinalist

• Junior Sara Sharos and freshman Brent Welch – Dramatic Duo Arkansas Champions

Averill said the varsity team had only five people but still managed to place fourth in the nation.

“That’s an incredible accomplishment because we compete against varsity squads that have 10-20 people,” she said. “As for my accomplishments, I could not succeed without the support of my coach and teammates. We’re a family. They have my back and I have theirs.”

McMullen said Averill consistently brings home awards and looks for ways to improve. He also praised Gray’s leadership and work.

“She is that person on the team that everyone looks up to given her experience and her overall attitude toward debate,” he said.”

In season awards, the team won fourth place Team IPDA Program Season Sweepstakes, fourth place Varsity Division Program Season Sweepstakes, sixth place Scholastic Cup and ninth place Founders Cup. Averill won 12th place Varsity Division Season Sweepstakes; Casey won fourth place Team IPDA Season Sweepstakes with Gray; Casey won fourth place Varsity Division Season Sweepstakes and freshman Braxton Johnson won seventh place Varsity Division Season Sweepstakes.

During the IPDA National Championship at Middle Tennessee State University in April, the team received third place Team IPDA Program Sweepstakes; Averill was Team IPDA quarterfinalist with Johnson; Card was Team IPDA quarterfinalist with Mangrum; Casey was Team IPDA fourth place speaker; Casey was Team IPDA Octafinalist with Gray; Johnson was Varsity Double Octafinalist and Mangrum was Novice Octafinalist.

For more information about UCA’s debate team, contact McMullen at (501) 852-0695.

The UCA College of Fine Arts and Communication includes the Departments of Art, Communication, Mass Communication and Theatre, Music and Writing. The college’s primary mission is the preparation of the next generation of artists, educators and communicators. For more information about CFAC, visit or call (501) 450-3293.