Carroll Talking Saints finish with national awards

April 14, 2016

HELENA – Carroll College’s top debate team brought home two national awards from the United States Universities Debating Championship held on April 8-10 at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. The awards were the sixth and seventh national honors won by the Talking Saints in the past four years at the United States World Debate national championships.

“We knew when we moved to World Debate in the British Parliamentary format that we would be entering the world of the Ivy League, Stanford and top European teams,” said coach Brent Northup. “So it’s been thrilling to gain some respect among those fine schools. Yale and Harvard don’t exactly tremble when they see us, but they do respect us and that’s a good feeling.”

Seniors Mark Schmutzler of Helena and Ryden Meyer of Portland, Oregon, started the national weekend by reaching the semifinals of America’s Cup, an elite national by-invitation-only round robin for 16 of the nation’s top teams which included past national and world champions. Carroll was knocked out by two high-pedigree teams: a former U.S. champion, and a national runner up.

In the national championship tournament, Meyer and Schmutzler competed against 180 of the nation’s finest teams, and were ranked 14th after preliminary competition. The Carroll Saints beat the Yale Bulldogs along the way, as well as Cornell, Brown and Columbia.

The 32 teams advancing to the championship rounds included Yale, Harvard, Cornell, Stanford, Columbia – and Carroll. Ireland, the team that debated at Carroll on March 30 in Helena, were the 11th ranked team, but international teams were not allowed to advance to the championship rounds of the U.S. tournament.

Mark and Ryden lost in the octafinals to teams from Bates College and Tufts University. Tufts ended up winning the national championship, defeating Yale, Harvard and Stanford in the final round.

This marks the third and fourth national awards for Meyer and Schmutzler during their four-year career at Carroll.

“We were a little upset when we lost. We felt like we should have done better,” said Meyer. “But the sense of what we accomplished in our career eventually overshadowed the loss. We were happy to be ranked 14th after prelims.”

Schmutzler and Meyer went for a cool-down walk after the loss, and by the time they returned from some good Southern food, they were philosophical.

“This is a journey we both appreciated,” said Meyer. “We suffered a lot of losses, but we had a lot of wins and it’s a journey we’d happily do again if we could.”

Three other Carroll teams competed at nationals. All were in contention for the championship rounds, but lost “bubble” debates in the final preliminary rounds.

Representing Carroll were senior Nick Fuller and sophomore Jake MacDuff, both of Seattle. Sophomore Tori Hill of Sidney, Montana, debated with sophomore Becca Poliquin of Hamilton, Montana. Freshmen Frank Stumbo of Shelley, Idaho, and Alex Thielman of Spokane, Washington, were Carroll’s fourth national entry.

The team, which stayed in the Peachtree area of downtown, enjoyed Atlanta’s food and toured CNN headquarters before returning home.

“We had some soul food, chicken, waffles, Korean barbecue and some Indian food,” said Meyer. “Going to Atlanta was quite the experience.”

Carroll also competed at the National Individual Events Tournament in Gainesville, Florida, on April 1-4. For the second straight year, senior Hanna Hillier from Jerome, Idaho, barely missed the final rounds in Prose Interpretation. Senior Anna Hoerner of Spokane, Washington, qualified in four events, but also did not advance.

“Hanna had a storybook career,” said Northup. “She won seven times this year to add to her long list of accomplishments over the last three years. One judge this year said she was one of the finest actresses he’d seen in forensics in his career, and praise like that brings smiles to all our faces.”

The team’s year concludes with “Night of the Talking Saints,” a showcase of individual events from the team. Hillier will start and end the evening, which will include Carroll’s top performers.

“Night of the Talking Saints” will be held in the Carroll Campus Center at 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 1.