Debate Hawks Win First Ever Tournament in California

The University Debate Hawks made history in California when they brought home their first major tournament win. Debaters Kelly Craig and Michelle Grushko won the Western Novice Debate Championship in Sacramento, California. This is the first time the debate team has ever won an entire tournament.

The team broke three new records in California. Juniors Samuel Maynard and Lianne Kulik hold the best record that Monmouth Debaters have ever had going undefeated in the preliminary rounds. Captains senior Lexi Todd and sophomore Daniel Roman are the first team to ever make it to the finals on the junior varsity level. The biggest record, however, was broken by junior Kelly Craig and freshman Michelle Grushko when they took home the first place award for Novice, winning the whole tournament.

Todd expressed how proud she was of the team. “The California tournament was a weekend of broken records for Monmouth Debate and I could not be prouder of my team’s accomplishments. We, as well as the rest of the country, learned that Monmouth Debate is no longer just a team of Novice Division debaters who never make it past the first playoff round. Not only can we win tournaments, but we can also compete at the upper division,” said Todd.

Craig stated, “I am still in shock that my incredibly talented partner Michelle Grushko and I won the tournament. It truly made me realize how lucky I am to be a part of a team that is made of people who motivate me to continue to learn more about debate and set new goals.”

Grushko commented, “Debating in California will easily go down as one of the most memorable experiences in my life. I could have never been able to make it to the final round without my awesome partner Kelly Craig and the incredible support of [the University] team and coach Dr. Joseph Patten. Thank you Debate Hawks for everything.”

Kulik reflected on her last tournament, adding, “There could not have been a better way to end up my debate career than this. Going undefeated was super exciting, especially while running a philosophical argument we built from scratch.”

Samuel Maynard remarked, “Lianne and I owe our 6-0 victory to our teammates and of course our unbelievable coach, Dr. Patten. Monmouth had a leg up on the competition in California because we have a group of hardworking and dedicated students that put in countless hours preparing for tournaments. This victory was a group effort.”

Roman is very proud of the team. “Each year we are continuing to achieve goals we never thought were possible. The debate hawks are quickly making a stand in the national debate scene, something that would seem impossible to any other school as small as Monmouth is,” said Roman.

President Paul Gaffney II congratulated the team, “This is no small achievement. Debate competition preparation is rigorous and one needs very focused competitors. I am proud that a set of terrific MU students have come together under Coach Joe Patten to claim its first overall team victory.”

The Dean of the McMurray School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Stanton Green, also expressed his congrats. “I am very proud of the work of our debate team and their director Dr. Joe Patten. They have come a long way in a very short time. The team exhibits the success that is possible when Monmouth students combine their talents with serious study and teamwork – all essential qualities that bode well for their professional and personal lives.”

The Debate Team is a student run organization, led by its two captains senior Lexi Todd and sophomore Daniel Roman and Monmouth University Political Science Chair and Professor Dr. Joseph Patten.

Debaters are in charge of writing their own cases that fits under the national resolution that changes year to year. This year’s resolution was about environmental policy, which the team spent the year researching and improving their cases on different policies. They have competed in four tournaments over the course of the year, and have at least one team make it to the finals round each one.

Roman comments, “The greatest asset we have is our teamwork. As a captain, my job is made so much easier by the incredible amount of work everyone puts into this team. I’m extremely proud of each person that made California possible. We wrote our own arguments taking countless hours and sleepless nights but the hard work finally paid off. California showed that with hard work anything is possible.”

Todd remarks, “I am so happy to have contributed to the success of the team in my years involved and I will never forget all of the great times and valuable lessons learned.”

The Western Novice Debate Championship had a total of eleven Universities competing, including Arizona State, CSU Northridge, Cal Poly, Cal State Fullerton, Fresno State, Los Rios, Pepperdine, Sacramento State, San Francisco State, Southwestern College, and Monmouth University.

The University had seven teams in total debating in the tournament, six Novice Division and one Junior Varsity. In novice they had Samuel Maynard and Lianne Kulik, Jessica Roberts and Dylan Maynard, Ryan Kelly and Amy Francis, Saliha Younas and Ashley Medina, and Jacqueline Corsentino and Aileen Nunez. For JV there was Daniel Roman and Lexi Todd.

Kelly expressed his excitement for his first tournament, “Obviously as a first time debater I was nervous but I give so much credit to literally everyone on the team and my partner Amy Francis for all their help and patience. It sounds cliché, but I was just happy to be there.”

Four of the seven teams competing made it into playoffs. These teams were Samuel Maynard and Lianne Kulik who went 6-0 in the preliminary rounds, Jessica Roberts and Dylan Maynard who came out 5-1 in the preliminary rounds, Kelly Craig and Michelle Grushko who won 4-2 in preliminary rounds, and Daniel Roman and Lexi Todd won 4-2 in JV preliminary.

Patten stated, “I really could not be any more proud of all the members of our debate team. Watching them research their topic, scrimmage all hours of the night, and then compete against debaters from all over the country – and then win a tournament, it’s really a dream come true. And what I am most proud of is how our debaters take their talents and then coach and take kids from Asbury Park high school to tournaments. Our team captains Lexi Todd and Dan Roman are true leaders, they lead by serving others.”

Craig gives credit to Dr. Patten for their big win. “Without Dr. Patten’s inspirational words throughout every road block I faced in debate, I would never had continued debating and would not have come close to winning a tournament. Thank you so much to everyone.”

The team would like to thank everyone at the University for their support, especially Dr. Patten. They look forward to next year’s challenges to come, and will keep up the efforts of this year in the Fall Semester. Anyone interested in joining in the fun of Policy Debate should email Dr. Patten about participating.

Kulik concludes, “But beyond wins and losses, the knowledge we gained and the friendships we made through debate were truly the most valuable and unforgettable. These are the things we will take with us long after our graduation date.”

PHOTO COURTESY of Joseph Patten