ACU’s debate team has become one of the nation’s best this year, traveling across the country to compete against, and defeat, top schools.
The team has traveled all over the U.S. this year to locations such as Berkeley, California, Kansas City and Bellingham, Washington.
Dena Counts, debate team coach and director of forensics, said the team travels every year to compete against intense competition.
“We travel about every three weeks,” Counts said. “We mainly do debate, and the type we focus on is parliamentary debate, which means we could have a different topic each round. We may do five rounds of debate that last 45 minutes on one day.”
ACU competes against big names such as Oregon University, University of California, Berkeley and the University of Utah.
Teams feature two students who take a stance against what the opposing team has decided. One of ACU’s pair teams was recently ranked fourth in the nation out of 500 schools. Top 60 teams will advance to nationals in Kansas City, Missouri, in two weeks. Caleb Orr, sophomore political science major from McKinney and Joyce Schuster, senior composite interdisciplinary major from Richland Hills, make up the top-ranked team.
“It’s been a blessing to get to compete against these big state school programs,” Orr said. “When we compete against big-name schools like Rice or Texas Tech, it’s one of those things where you have nothing to lose. So, you throw all your arguments at them and hope you can win some.”
The schools competing against the Wildcats feature more of an academic approach and less of a spiritual one. However, Orr said the team has earned respect with the recent winning streak.
“I think that over the years ACU has done a great job of establishing our credibility around the debate circuit,” Orr said. “Yes, we come in with a smaller name and a Christian name, but whenever you start beating teams and they start to become afraid of you, then they take you seriously.”
Winning consistently has not been a problem for the Wildcats as they have ranked among the top 10 percent in the country from year to year. The Wildcats beat teams almost eight times their size.
“We are just having quite a bit of success this year,” Counts said. “We are usually successful every year and in the top 20 or top 40 in the country. It’s great that we are attracting quality students that are engaged in learning and want to know things that are going on out in the world.”
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