Coaches guide debate team to gold at nationals

San Jacinto College speech and debate team members shown displaying some of their many trophies from this year include, from left (back row): students Ian Jacoby, Tyler Cashiola, and Amanda Alexander; (front row): Floyd McConnell (faculty advisor), and Leigh-Anne Williams (faculty advisor). Speech and debate student Jesus Villegas was unavailable for the photo.

Kudos to Floyd McConnell and Leigh-Anne Williams for guiding the North campus speech and debate team through an amazing year marked by outstanding achievements.

The speech and debate team emerged as one of the top teams in the nation after bringing home two gold medals from the Phi Rho Pi National Tournament, held recently in New Orleans.

The team won a gold medal in the Parliamentary Debate category, and a gold medal in the Team Sweepstakes category. Additionally, the team earned a bronze medal in the Lincoln-Douglas Debate category. The annual national tournament attracts two-year college teams from all over the nation, competing in a wide range of speech and debate categories.

A few weeks before the national tournament, the SJC team won a gold medal at the Phi Rho Pi Regional Tournament, which includes a six-state area.

The phenomenal results at the regional and the national tournaments culminate a banner year for a program that is firmly establishing itself as one of the premier programs in the state and nation.

In February, the SJC duo of Ian Jacoby and Tyler Cashiola won first place in the Parliamentary Debate category at the Texas Intercollegiate Forensics Association (TIFA) tournament, making them state champions. Three SJC students, Cashiola, Jason Savoie, and Amanda Alexander, were named to the Texas All-State Speech and Debate Squad. The accomplishments are especially significant because San Jacinto College excelled against four-year colleges and universities, as well as two-year colleges at the state tournament. The 26 teams at the state tournament included squads from some of the state’s largest universities such as Texas A&M, University of Texas-El Paso, and Texas State University – all programs with large budgets and vast talent pools.

The Jacoby-Cashiola team also won first place in Parliamentary Debate in the TIFA state tournament that was held at San Jacinto College North in October 2009.

San Jacinto College debaters also gained national recognition through the year. The Jacoby-Cashiola team earned a national ranking as high as number six at one point by the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence (NPTE). The two-member SJC team of Alexander and Savoie also achieved a NPTE ranking of 46 during the Fall term. The Jacoby-Cashiola team finished the 2009-10 year with a NPTE ranking of 28. San Jacinto College was the only two-year college in the nation with students ranked in the top 50. All the other teams in the top 50 represented four-year colleges and universities.

The SJC debate team participated in 12 tournaments this year, including local, state, regional, and national events. They won so many team and individual trophies that no one is really sure about an accurate number. “An educated guess would be about 100 all together,” commented McConnell, speech and debate instructor.

“This is by far the best year we have ever had in the area of debate,” noted Williams, who also teaches speech and debate and coaches the team along with McConnell. “The 2008 team did very good in the areas of speech and prose, but this year we just had a very strong debate team.”