Carroll Hosts 200 for High School Debate Tournament

Debate Tournament graphic

HELENA – More than 200 students in suits roamed the Carroll campus on December 2-3, competing in the Carroll Tournament of Champions, a high school debate competition.

Starting in 1992, the Carroll tournament had been hosted annually until the pandemic put the event on pause.

“We were happy to invite back the high schools,” said Talking Saints coach Brent Northup. “They missed this tournament. We had three schools pull out at the last minute because of transportation problems, but we still had 20 schools on campus from Montana and Idaho.”

Carroll hosted the debate competition, while Capital High School hosted the speech events. Squads split their students between the two campuses.

The Carroll tournament featured a College Fair, with a variety of Carroll departments hosting tables for the debaters: chemistry, political science, theatre, anthrozoology, pre med, the honors program and the Talking Saints each had representatives present.

“The event was excellent,” said Dr. Jeremy Johnson, chair of the political science department. “I spoke to a number of high school students keen to learn more about political science, international relations, and pre-law at Carroll College. I hope several of them will eventually matriculate as Carroll College students!”

“I thought it was great,” said Dr. Grant Hokit, biology professor who advises students in a variety of health and medical fields. “We had at least a couple dozen students talk to both me and my students. Great idea to take advantage of that venue.”

“It was great to have access to so many engaged high school students, and we talked to many students who were interested in the sciences,” said Dr. Caroline Pharr, an associate professor of chemistry. “And of course you never pass up the opportunity to have a demo or two to help show how cool chemistry is!  They were a big hit!”  

Talking Saints senior Hellie Badruddin organized the College Fair, and sat at the team’s table talking to future Carroll debaters.

“Caroline Pharr is a helluva sales person,” said Badaruddin, an international relations major. “She made me want to be in the chemistry program.”

In addition to providing scholarly information, the table hosts found other ways to attract interest.

“Anthrozoo brought two dogs, including a very pettable golden retriever,” said Northup. “Caroline had a bubbling dry ice exhibit. Jeremy brought pizza for the students, plus the honors and speech programs filled the table with candy. Choosing a college can be difficult, and one really good bite of Canadian bacon pizza might make the difference.”

Bozeman High School won sweepstakes at the Carroll tournament.

The Carroll tournament almost qualifies as a reunion. Some current members of the Talking Saints competed at the Tournament of Champions – and some of the debaters who competed this year are coached by Talking Saint alums.

Senior Vicente Gallardo, who attended Butte Central, competed twice at the Carroll tournament during his high school days.

A number of former Talking Saints, now coaches, had teams competing at the tournament.

Ian Hollander ‘16 brought students from Hellgate High in Missoula. Nicholas Taffs ‘19 coaches at Capital High in Helena. Annie Hanshew ‘03 and Tom Trangmoe ‘22 coach at Helena High. The Flathead High School coaching staff includes former Talking Saint Sean O’Donnell ‘96, who was inducted into the Montana Forensics Educators' Hall of Fame in 2020.

And the judges at the tournament included many Carroll alums who volunteered to help out.

“Brett Clark ‘03, a local attorney, was among those who came to help,” said Northup. “It was too hectic to talk much, but it was wonderful to have the family back together again.”