Carroll College Talking Saints Close Out Season on a High Note

Friday, April 20, 2018

HELENA – The Carroll College Talking Saints forensics team ended their season by receiving an award at the national debate championships. The United States University Debating Championships were held at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, on April 13-15.

Seniors Tori Hill of Sidney, Montana, and Becca Poliquin of Hamilton, Montana, were among the top 32 teams who advanced to the championship rounds, where they lost to Yale and Cornell. Carroll and the University of Alaska were the only Northwest schools competing in the championship rounds of Open Debate on the final day.

The tournament brought together more than 230 teams from 30 states representing 69 colleges and universities. Harvard University won the tournament, defeating Yale, Stanford and Northeastern University in the Grand Final. Top private and public colleges and universities from around the country competed.

The national recognition was a fitting end to a fine career and a stellar senior year for Hill and Poliquin. On April 1, they reached the semifinals at the North American Women’s Championships held at the University of Vermont. They won the Rocky Mountain Debate Championship in October.

Hill and Poliquin debated well in their last round, facing top Ivy League schools in a debate on international economics.

Eight Carroll students made the trip to California for the national championships – and all of them came home energized from locking horns with the best debaters in the country.

At one point, late in the tournament, Carroll was doing so well they were assigned the “top room” which included the four teams with the best records to that point.

“We were competing against two top Yale teams, one of which reached the final round, and the top Stanford team that reached the finals of the world debate championships,” recalls Hill. 

We didn't win that round, but it had always been our dream to have a seat at the ‘big boys’ table. And it's our dream for the future of Carroll's team that they not only get a seat at the Ivy League table, but that they win. I'm hopeful that our young teams will get there.”

Poliquin also came away more encouraged than discouraged.

“This weekend was the culmination of what Tori and I have been working toward since our partnership began three years ago,” said Poliquin. “I’ve never worked so hard for anything. To be surrounded by such a supportive Pacific Northwest community who were cheering for us just made it extra sweet. As swan songs go, this one was all I could ask for. I couldn’t imagine a better way to have spent four years.”

In British Parliamentary debate, often called “world debate,” topics change from round to round, forcing students to draw upon a wide liberal arts knowledge base.

“Becca and I recently studied abroad in Cuba, so it was lucky we had one debate about Cuban politics,” said Hill. “We were able to not only apply the information we learned there to win the round, but more importantly to think about the people we met there and have a personal stake in what we were talking about.”

Other Carroll teams were in contention until the eighth and final prelim, finishing just short of the top 32 places. They quickly became the loudest Carroll cheerleaders for their senior friends.

“Nationals trips are always a reminder of the family nature of our team,” said Peri Dropping, a sophomore communication and public relations major from Redmond, Washington. “We’re all there for each other and cheering one another on. It’s a great community.”

Dropping is primed for next year.

“I felt my partner, Kelsie, and I used some of the coolest arguments we’ve ever used. We also learned a lot from debating some of the best teams from around the U.S. Mostly though, it helped us motivate ourselves as we go into next season and gave us some exciting goals to work for.”

Hill was disappointed to see her career over, but proud of how it ended.

“Going up against the Ivies is like climbing Mount Everest,” said Hill. “But we're not starting from the bottom. We were simply starting from where other Carroll teams left off. And that's a blessing to have the kind of generational support to get us to the top."

We may not have reached the summit this weekend, but we can see it. And our team will be back for another climb next year."

“I couldn’t be prouder of the team,” said coach Brent Northup. “The students worked very hard, but more than that they were so supportive of one another and of top debaters from other schools. They carry the Carroll values with them when we travel and they represent our school well. Ultimately, holding on to your principles in the heat of fierce competition is what forensics – and life – is all about.”

The Talking Saints will host a community showcase, The Night of the Talking Saints,  on Sunday, April 29, at 7 p.m. in the Lower level of the Campus Center. The public is invited to meet the 28 members of the Talking Saints and enjoy the performances.