April 28, 2017  

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Southern Miss Speech and Debate Team Earns State Championship

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The University of Southern Mississippi Speech and Debate Team recently hosted the Southern Forensics Championship Tournament, where the Golden Eagles won the title of Mississippi Debate Sweepstakes State Champions. This three-day tournament functions as a state championship for Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, but is open to other states.

The tournament included 12 events, including an individual debate, a team debate, a parliamentary debate and platform speeches. More than 300 students, coaches, guests and community judges from 26 different institutions attended the tournament.

Southern Miss earned 10 state championship titles, placing first in six categories:

● 1st place Parliamentary Debate – Temp Weaver (Mary Esther, Fla.) and Emma Valentine (Theodore, Ala.)
● 1st place Parliamentary Debate Speaker – Temp Weaver
● 1st place Pro Speaker Public Debate – Jonathan Bridenbaker (Gulfport, Miss.)
● 1st place Varsity Public Debate – Ryan Cone (Hattiesburg)
● 1st place Varsity Speaker Public Debate – John Beckham (Mandeville, La.)
● 1st place Novice Public Debate – Kendall Junker (Niceville, Fla.)

Assistant coach and third year doctoral student, Kevin Bryant, was named Mississippi Debate Coach of the Year. Jonathan Bridenbaker received the Extemporaneous Speaking award. Lakelyn Taylor of Long Beach, Miss. won the award for Communication Analysis. Taylor also qualified for the Interstate Oratorical Tournament, which is quite an accomplishment, according to Dr. Paul Strait, director of the Speech and Debate Team at Southern Miss.

“The Interstate Oratorical Tournament is the oldest running forensics tournament in the country. It’s almost 150 years old and one of the top two persuasive speeches in each state. One of my goals has been to qualify someone to this tournament, so we are very happy for Lakelyn,” said Strait, also an assistant professor in the Department of Communications Studies.

“This is an avenue for students who have a competitive edge and who have a knack for argumentation and logic, as well as for students who want to prepare for law school and graduate school. This is a great extra curriculum that is beneficial for them,” said Bryant, a Cookeville, Tenn. native.

“We host comprehensive debates, giving us the ability to attract schools like The University of Alabama and Florida State University, which earns Mississippi respect in the forensics community,” Bryant added. 

For more information about Southern Miss Speech and Debate, visit usm.edu/communication-studies.