Forensics team takes first place at national tournament

Biola's debate squad adds another victory to an already stellar record

When the word “forensics” comes up in conversation, a general reaction is some sort of reference to CSI. However, the Biola Forensics Team has nothing to do with crime scenes and dead bodies, but is actually the nationally-ranked university debate team.

The team attended the Claremont National Open Debate tournament last weekend at the Claremont Colleges in Claremont, Calif., where debate partners senior Stephen Mar and junior Peter Van Elswyk placed first in the entire tournament, beating out teams from prestigious universities across the country, including UC Berkeley, University of Wyoming and Southern Illinois University.

The debating weekend began for the team on Friday of last week in a special Round Robin tournament reserved for the best 10 teams in the country. In order to participate in the Round Robin, teams were required to submit an application and were then selected according to certain ranking requirements. Mar and Van Elswyk were chosen to participate and ended up finishing in second place in the Round Robin, only behind Western Washington University.

The actual tournament began on Saturday. Any university that wanted to take part in the debates was invited to this part of the tournament. 66 teams from all over the country came to the tournament, including representatives from Azusa Pacific University, Point Loma University and University of California San Diego.

The debate teams were given their topic for the debate 20 minutes before their round started. Each team then used those 20 minutes to do research and brainstorm what they were going to argue. Topics were based on current political and economic issues, including micro-loans, immigration, national identification cards, insurgencies and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.

The rounds worked in an elimination format, starting with a large number of teams and then slowly working down until only two teams are left in the final round. This type of debating can be nerve-wracking for all involved.

“As soon as you lose, you’re out,” said Van Elswyk.

Mar and Van Elswyk debated their way to the final round, and finally won first place in the tournament overall.

Mar and Van Elswyk were surprised at their first place win considering that this was their first tournament of the year, and they only practice two hours a week compared to other teams who practice up to 12 hours a week.

“Most of the teams there had already been to several tournaments and had been warmed up,” Mar said.

But this clearly didn’t stop the team. The two have been debate partners for the past two years and are looking forward to a successful third year together.

“We understand each other and are able to work together really well,” said Mar. “We even will write arguments for each other during the rounds.”

This tournament stood out from the rest that Mar and Van Elswyk have been to in the past. Point Loma Nazarene University won the national tournament last year, and since then, private Christian universities have had a growing respect in the debating world.

“People consider Biola one of the top debate teams in the country,” said Van Elswyk. “It’s cool to go in there and be able to say ‘We’re articulate and intelligent Christians, and we’re actually something to deal with.’”

This newfound respect has also been helpful during the debates. Biola’s performances at previous debates have helped them to form relationships with other debating teams, and their reputation has made them well-known in the judging world.

“Being well-known and people knowing who you are definitely plays into it as much as a basketball game,” Mar said.

The relationships are also helpful in the chaotic preparation time before the debate rounds. Many people also offered to help the Biola team because of time they had spent with them at previous tournaments.

Mar and Van Elswyk had only placed first in one tournament before this weekend, and they were extremely excited to take part in the Biola forensics team winning tradition. They completed the tournament with a traditional call to Forensics director Erick Roebuck to inform him “There are no teams left to debate, so we’re coming home!”

0 0 vote
Article Rating