Forensics Strong Finish in First Year of World Debate

The Talking Saints forensics team closed its season with one of the best weekends in Carroll forensics history by recording three runners-up finishes in three national championship events held at the University of LaVerne April 13-15.

Seniors Chris Axtman of Portland and Megan Towles of Huntington Beach, Calif., began the weekend by reaching the championship round of the America’s Cup, a by-invitation-only event featuring 16 exceptional teams from the United States and abroad.

Carroll was the only undergraduate team to reach the America’s Cup final round, losing to a team from Ireland and England. Also in finals was a team from Oxford.

Next came the United States Universities national championship tournament. Axtman and Towles again reached the championship round in the 154-team event, losing only to Yale University in the final championship round.

Earlier that same day the Carroll freshman team of Ryden Meyer of Portland, Oregon, and Mark Schmutzler of Helena, finished second in the novice national championship final round, losing the national title on a split 3-2 vote.

“My gray hair proves I’ve coached a long time,” said coach Brent Northup, “but this weekend stands out as one of the most thrilling and satisfying moments of them all. Megan and Chris were on fire, beating a whole bunch of great teams.”

Schools entered included St. Johns, Claremont, Vermont, Cornell, USC, UCLA, Stanford, Harvard and Yale. Joining Carroll in the final championship round were Yale, Stanford and Loyola School of Law.

Yale, was crowned national champion, with the other three finalists listed as joint runners up.

Northup said the squad was surprised and delighted to have the support of so many debaters.

“When Megan and Chris were announced as the winners of the semi-finals and thus advancing to finals, the whole auditorium erupted in cheers,” said Northup. “The convener paused and remarked that this was obviously a popular win. They were the Cinderella team for the whole weekend.”

Towles was named the ninth best speaker among the nearly 300 debaters.

This was Carroll’s first season in world debate, a form of debate more rhetorical and less technical than other forms of debate. Each round features four teams, two supporting the resolution and two opposing it. Each team gets 15 minutes to prepare for the new topic. Afterwards judges huddle before publicly ranking the teams first, second, third and fourth.

“Learning World Debate was a steep learning curve for us,” said Northup. “We flew to Denver last summer for mentoring sessions with Rob Margesson, one of the nation’s best coaches from Regis. Then we attended a workshop with the St. John’s coach Steve Llano in September. One week at a time we tried to figure out how to adapt to this new format.”

Northup figured success would realistically be a few years away.

“We had our sights set on top 32 this year,” said Northup, “so when Chris and Megan started advancing through the bracket we just kept waiting for the bubble to burst…but it never did until Yale finally popped it. But by then we were too happy to care.”