Fresno State’s Candis Tate holds one of the many awards earned by the debate team. Photo Courtesy of Fresno State Department of Communication

Debate teams brings home national awards

The Fresno state debate team made a strong push to close out its season, ending with multiple accolades and awards at the national tournament in late March.

In the Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) National Tournament at Idaho State, Fresno State debaters Pritpal Randhawa, Sierra Holley, Jamila Ahmed and Emma Wheeler earned awards as National Debate Scholars.

Fresno State’s Candis Tate holds one of the many awards earned by the debate team. Photo Courtesy of Fresno State Department of Communication

Fresno State’s Candis Tate holds one of the many awards earned by the debate team.
Photo Courtesy of Fresno State Department of Communication

Candis Tate was elected to the All-American debate team, which features the top 30 debaters in the country.Wheeler was selected as “Novice of the Year” among all the first-year debaters in the country.

This past season marked one of the best the debate team has had in a while.

Tate and Holley beat teams from the US Military Academy, the University of Puget Sound, Rochester and others, fighting their way to a 5-3 record and becoming the first team from Fresno State in several years to clear at a varsity tournament.

The debate program at Fresno State was discontinued in 2003, only to be revived in 2011.

This past season the Fresno State debate team had 18 students go to tournaments and debate, said Kevin Kuswa, coach of the Fresno State debate team.

The team is open to anyone who is interested and is considered a very diverse team, he said, opposed to many teams on the East Coast. The team is also relatively young compared to most others.

“We figured it would take three or four years to get us to the varsity level, but Candis [Tate] and Sierra made this great run,” Kuswa said.

Randhawa, Ahmed, Andre Mitchell and Christian Ybarra won three rounds at the varsity level of the CEDA National Tournament. Ahmed and Ybarra’s performance qualified them for the elimination rounds in novice. They beat Johnson County, Kan., in the quarterfinals before losing to Rochester, N.Y., in the semifinals. The pair ended the competition by tying for third place in the country on the novice level.

Ariana Willingham and Tate earned awards as National Debate Scholars at the cum-laude level during the tournament as well.

Wheeler and Willingham won two debates on the varsity level during the Idaho event. Both intend to return to the debate team at Fresno State next year.

The Fresno State debate team is one of the more diverse teams that compete on the national level, he said, with a majority of the teams it debates against being comprised of mostly males.

The team has many of its members entering their second year of debate, leaving much room for improvement.

This past year was the second year that Tate has debated. She has now received a scholarship to coach the debate team at California State University, Northridge.

Kuswa believes that since the season is over, first-year debaters can now take this time to develop positions on different topics.

Most debates are policy debates, meaning that before the actual debate, the competitors are already assigned to their topic.

“For policy debate, we debate the same topic all season long,” Kuswa said. “This past year we debated a lot on environmental policies, dealing with global warming, solar panels. Basically a really in-depth energy policy.”

In single tournaments, the debate team will enter six preliminary rounds, each round being different. Some rounds will be affirmative, while other rounds will be negative. At the end of the preliminary rounds, the team with the best record out of six rounds will receive the top seed, set to play the bottom seed.

The team as a whole won second place in the nation for public debate advocacy for the public forum debates at Reedley College and earned an undergraduate travel grant for the Madison Cup being held at James Madison University this month.  Randhawa and Tom Boroujeni will be representing the team.

Kuswa is very excited about the direction that the debate team is headed, especially after it finished in the top 32 teams in the country. He understands that his team is young and has room to grow.

“The community decides what we debate on. One of the topics that I am pushing for is economic inequality, which would be good for the Valley,” Kuswa said. “I’m excited for people that have started off as novices on junior varsity and seeing how they will develop into the next season.”

The team will be bringing back many of its key debaters, including Ahmed, Ybarra and Holley, who are looking forward to the next debate season. This past season these debaters were able to get experience that will carry over.