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Members of the ETSU Forensics and Debate team are determined to be successful this year, and they proved it in the first tournament of the semester by winning the best team and best speaker awards. The Smoky Mountain Debate Tournament was organized by Walters State Community College in Morristown, Tenn., and featured 30 teams from Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia and Virginia. “I am incredibly proud of the entire team,” said Laughton Messmer, speech instructor and debate team coach. “We not only had strong competitors, but we also had new members who traveled to Morristown to support their teammates and learn more about debating.” The one-day competition focused on parliamentary debate, which involves two teams, the government and the opposition, each having two members. The government forms the debate based on the topic imposed by the host school, and the opposition argues against the points made by the government. Each team has the right to three short speeches to convince the judges they are supposed to win. The goal of parliamentary debate is to argue general knowledge that is available to the average person off the street, Messmer says. The ETSU debate team had three teams in the competition. The best performance came from Scott Wells who paired with Daniel Potts to win the first place in the parliamentary debate section. Wells, a junior majoring in biology, also was declared the overall best speaker at the tournament. “I am very excited for winning a tournament for the first time,” said Wells. “I enjoyed debating on subjects like the reconstruction of Iraq and the stimulus for higher education.” The best speaker recognition is awarded to the student with the highest score after three rounds of debating. “The turning point in Scott’s win was his ability to address and counteract every point brought up by his opposition,” said Messmer. “He stuck to his argument and stayed calm and clear.” -more- The other two ETSU teams were composed of Richard Wilson, Zack Walden, Cheyna Haas and Stewart Watts. Wilson and Walden posted two wins, while Haas and Watts also won a round. “Even though Stewart and I did not receive an award, I was very pleased with my performance, since this is just my second tournament ever,” said Cheyna Haas, a sophomore studying psychology. The team is now preparing for its next appearance at the Belmont University tournament in Nashville. The first day of the November tournament will be dedicated to parliamentary debate, while the second day will focus on individual competition, featuring different styles of speeches. “In the few weeks we have to prepare for this event, we will concentrate on introducing our newest members to these different types of discourse such as public and persuasive speeches or poetry interpretation,” said Messmer. Founded in 2005, the East Tennessee State University Forensics and Debate Team is an organization created to introduce students to creativity, organization and debate. The team studies various debating styles such as public speaking, poetic interpretation and parliamentary debate. Members meet every Thursday at 5:15 p.m., in the Campus Center Building, Room 102. For more information, e-mail or visit