Debate team cleans up against local competition

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    By Sara Richardson

    BYU Speech and Debate team nearly swept their first BYU-sponsored debate competition Saturday night.

    “This year we really blossomed,” said the club president, Clinton Sheffield, 23, a chemical engineering major, from Provo. “Today is actually showing how far we”ve come; we took on three strong programs and cleaned up. What can I say, this just feels good!”

    The club invited BYU-Idaho, University of Utah, and Utah Valley State College to compete, and still ended up taking first place in every event except one.

    The top speaker of the competition, winning first place as the Open Division Speaker, was the BYU Speech and Debate Club”s President Elect, Lee Lewis, 21, a junior majoring in accounting, from Pleasant Grove.

    “It”s been wonderful,” he said. ” I can”t get enough of it. It”s got everything that I loved about debate; I can improve my ability to write, organize my thoughts, and express myself — which I think has affected me as a student and as a representative of the Lord.”

    Lewis originally attended the University of Michigan to compete in their top-five debate program.

    “I wanted to debate in college, but I knew BYU didn”t have a team,” he said. “But I soon realized debating on Sunday wasn”t for me, plus the culture there was very negative and a little atheistic.”

    After his mission, Lewis had given up debate and decided to attend BYU. To his surprise, he saw signs on campus advertising a debate program, and decided to search it out.

    BYU had not had a debate team for over twelve years, when last year a few students decided to teach themselves how to compete in parliamentary debate, attended a tournament, and solicited for additional club members.

    The Speech and Debate Club finally received sponsorship from the English Department with the help of English Professor Gary Hatch, and only then were able to compete in the name of BYU.

    “We became passionate about this,” Sheffield said. “We started to spend countless hours trying to get money, administrative support, and classes. Really, that”s what ended up making the difference for us.”

    To complete this school year, the BYU club decided to sponsor the last competition. Due to a lack of funding, each category winner took home a used book, with a homemade sticker inside the front cover, as a trophy.

    Picking out books from The Deseret Industries was one of the best parts of setting up the competition, said Florence Chen, 20, a pre-communications sophomore, from Houston Tex.

    “I”ve gotten addicted to debate again. I love it,” she said.

    Chen won first place in the Interpretation category of the BYU Speech Competition, but she does not know how well she would have placed at her last competition because the finals were on a Sunday.

    Since they are not willing to compete on Sunday, many club members and leaders say the program will most likely never become a top competitive program.

    “I don”t know if BYU debate will rise to astronomical levels, but regardless, it is a lot of fun,” said second place Impromptu winner, Valerie Woo, 20, a freshman majoring in economics and political science, from Singapore.

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