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Pacific debate team No. 1 in two national rankings

Feb 8, 2017

University of the Pacific's Speech and Debate Team recently paid homage to the university's long tradition of oratory by taking the top spots in two national rankings.

The No. 1 team ranking by the National Parliamentary Debate Association came following a strong showing in the Mile High Swing tournaments Jan. 5-8 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Juniors Dallas Phillips and Paul Villa also placed first overall in the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence for the second No. 1 ranking.

"This is the type of opportunity - firsthand experience in national competitions providing real-world experience - we want for Pacific students during their time here," said Rena Fraden, dean of College of the Pacific, the oldest and largest academic unit of University of the Pacific. "They know that if they commit their energies to working and studying hard, and listening to their dedicated professors, then they have the chance for great success."

The Pacific team, which dates back to 1854, ranked seventh in the nation last year out of 199 collegiate speech and debate teams.

"To have Pacific debaters in the No. 1 spot of two national rankings at the same time is extraordinary and I'm very excited for our team," said Steven Farias, director of forensics. "This gives us great momentum going into the national championships in March."

The Mile High Swing consists of two parliamentary debate tournaments conducted over four rigorous days with 20 rounds of competition against some of the best debate teams in the country, including UC Berkeley, University of Oregon, Colorado State University, Rice University, and last year's national champions, The University of Texas at Tyler and William Jewell College.

"The Mile High Swing has become one of the strongest indicators of success at the national tournament," said Farias. "Over the past 10 years, 17 out of 20 eventual national champions made it to the quarterfinal round of at least one of the tournaments, and 12 of the last 14 national champions have been semifinalists of at least one of the tournaments."

During the first half of the Mile High Swing, the Pacific team debated on policy briefs prepared a month ahead of time on four different topic areas, including the ethics of biological research, changes to the role of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, changes to domestic policing tactics, and National Parliamentary Debate Association structural changes and debate practices. Competing against 64 teams from across the nation, Pacific faced its stiffest competition of the season and advanced three teams into the elimination rounds.

The second half of the swing involved standard parliamentary debate for which teams received the topic only 20 minutes before the round. Going 4-1 in preliminary rounds, Phillips and Villa won five elimination rounds in a row to become tournament champions, defeating teams from Grand Canyon University, William Jewell College, UC Berkeley and Texas Tech University. This was the first time Pacific has ever won either half of the Mile High Swing.

Pacific's success across both tournaments helped the team finish with yet another top-5 sweepstakes award, as University of the Pacific placed third among all other universities. In individual events, sophomore Joslynn Howard and junior Andrew Morgan dominated their competition. Across two tournaments, Howard took six first-place wins, as well as a second- and third-place finish. Morgan earned three first- and four second-place wins. Pacific's Speech and Debate Team finished the day ranked as second overall in individual events.

As Pacific heads to Southern California for the Point Loma Round Robin on Feb. 10 and the Sunset Cliffs Classic Feb. 11-12, the team builds on its momentum in continuing its national dominance.

Debate and oratory at Pacific began in March 1854 when a group of students met and formed a committee to draft a constitution for a college organization in which students helped each other "in the acquirement of an easy, graceful, and impressive manner of speaking, as well as skill in the use of language." Over the years Pacific debaters continued to achieve success, being ranked first in the nation at least twice before and regularly finishing in the top 10.