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Home > Debaters Excel at NFA's "Christian Nationals"

Debaters Excel at NFA's "Christian Nationals"

March 19th, 2009

By Sarah Pride

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 338-8727

NFA and Parli debate team, just before departure to California for Christian Nationals

This past weekend, in Patrick Henry College’s first nationwide competition as a new member of the National Forensics Association (NFA), senior David Kurashige brought home a first-place trophy in debate. This tournament, the National Christian College Forensics Invitational at Biola University in La Mirada, CA, also known as “Christian Nationals,” awarded the College second place in the “sweepstakes” category for overall performance.

Additionally, PHC debaters snagged first place in an individual event (junior Brianna Edelblut), and second place in lower-level Parli debate (freshmen Gregory Escobar and Alan Carrillo). In lower-level NFA, freshman Nicole Frazer won third and junior Jeff Hunt won seventh-place.

As an NFA Debate Coach for the Patrick Henry team, Kyndra Jamison loves to compete. But she abstained from competition at Christian Nationals in order to coach her teammates. Last year, when a number of PHC’s former competitors continued to leave the College’s old debate league, the National Education Debate Association (NEDA), Jamison spearheaded a four-person exploration into the NFA. They liked what they found and facilitated a program-wide transition this year.

David Kurashige, PHC senior and winner in NFA debate at "Christian Nationals"

In the NFA, debaters argue a debate resolution -- a statement that sets the stage for the year's tournaments -- just like they did in NEDA. They compete individually, however, in a manner called "Lincoln-Douglas" debate. Also, the new league's style tends to move more quickly, rattling off arguments at blazing speed.

The NFA also has a much broader reach than NEDA. Its 2008-2009 calendar shows 296 tournaments spread across the nation. And although PHC debaters are still trying to raise funding to attend NFA’s all-inclusive (secular as well as Christian) national tournament, their appearance at Christian Nationals proved a robust competitive environment, with 27 or 28 Christian colleges involved.

These included Point Loma Nazarene University, which, according to PHC alum and Executive Debate Coach Isaiah McPeak, “regularly wins” nationals in the National Parli Debate Association (NPDA). McPeak notes that developments at Christian Nationals foreshadow PHC’s competitiveness for the upcoming Parliamentary nationals (team debate in which participants receive a round's resolution only fifteen minutes beforehand).

 “It’s important to note that [Kurashige] won this tournament against Point Loma competitors,” he says.

On a personal level, PHC found this tournament one of their most enjoyable. Participating at Christian Nationals, says Jamison, was “kind of like a big reunion,” as PHC debaters recognized friends and competitors from back in high school. Some of the teams from other schools actually helped Carrillo and Escobar as they prepared for their final round in Parli competition.

Brianna Edelblut, PHC junior, NFA coach, and winner in "Interpretation of Faith Literature" at Christian Nationals

“On Sunday morning, we all had a church service together to prepare for the day,” McPeak says. “The atmosphere was incredible.”

This tournament also stretched PHC debaters in new directions, stimulating ongoing growth of the College’s public speaking program. Christian Nationals offers many different styles of debate, including individual events, a category of dramatic public speaking not yet officially part of PHC’s debate program. It is similar to the recitations delivered by Literature majors in higher-level lit classes.

Fresh off of her second-place finish at the ACMA National Moot Court Championships, Brianna Edelblut, a junior and an NFA Coach, registered for several individual events for the first time since high school. Even out of practice, she won the division for “Interpretation of Faith Literature” with her presentation of “Tilly” by Frank Peretti. Mostly, she stored away what she learned in order to train the rest of the team.

“The sweepstakes award is given for overall team performance in a tournament,” she explains. “Without [individual events], we’re only competing in half the tournament.”

During her upcoming senior year, Edelblut hopes to become the team coach for individual events, saying she has seen the benefits of developing a more creative, persuasive style of public speaking.

Alan Carrillo, PHC freshman and second place Junior Parli finisher with his partner, freshman Gregory Escobar

“I am able to read children’s books in a more entertaining manner while helping with English for Speakers of Other Languages, for example,” she says. “I think we should pursue all kinds of public speaking. If we are concentrating on the purely analytical and ignoring the persuasive and creative, it’s not as good.”

PHC’s Director of Debate, Dr. James Tallmon, looks forward to next year’s Christian Nationals, which will be in driving distance of the College, at Cedarville University in Ohio.

“This year was only the beginning,” he grins. “We made a decision a year ago to maintain our program’s competitiveness. Last weekend affirms the wisdom of that decision. We went to a tournament out west with a different style, and we did very well.”

Overall, out of two Parli debate teams and five Lincoln-Douglas (individual) policy debaters from PHC who attended Christian Nationals, all but two of the LD debaters “broke” into final rounds. Even those who did not “break” at nationals achieved at least an even win/loss record in the preliminary rounds.

“We were very successful in terms of quality,” says McPeak.