Freshman Brenden Lucas won of the Junior Varsity Grand Prix in last weekend's debate tournament. "I felt a little nervous but for the most part, I was calm and kept my composure," Lucas said. 

Brenden Lucas, freshman socio-political communications major, won the junior varsity division at last weekend’s debate tournament. Lucas was 6-0 in prelims and 5-1 in the double-elimination rounds on Sunday, June 7.

The National Grand Prix debate tournament took place online for the first time June 6-7. There were six separate debates each day and the first debate took place at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 6. 

The Grand Prix is a yearly community-owned tournament. This is a newer tournament this being only its second year.

Due to COVID-19, organizers had to negotiate with the other schools about when they would have the final competition. The final competition was originally scheduled for March 14 and 15. 

Debates take about 45-90 minutes from start to finish. Students receive their pairings to decisions of the winner, according to Morris.

Student pairings indicate which person or school one debates against. Then, an unrelated judge from a third school will assign the win/loss and speaker points.

“The three divisions (Open, JV, and Novice) competed in a single group in preliminary rounds, and the top 12 made it to a double elimination round,” said Dr. Eric Morris, Director for the Holt V. Spicer Debate Forum at Missouri State University. “Four of those 12 represented MSU — no other school had more than two. People eligible for JV and November were then able to qualify for "break out" elimination rounds against each other. We won both Open and JV divisions.”

Debate members received their pairing by email at 9:30 a.m. Saturday. Members then signed into Zoom and were placed in their breakout room. They had 30 minutes to prepare, which included speaking to coaches and teammates and organizing their files, according to Morris. 

Lucas’ final debate topic was from last year's tournament, which was about whether the government should increase investment in a national energy policy. 

“The final tournament was a little exciting and pretty rewarding,” Lucas said. “Going into the final debate, I felt a little nervous, but for the most part, I was calm and kept my composure. The atmosphere was fun amongst the team, and it was nice to cap off the year by winning it all.”

In the elimination rounds, there are three judges, often from three unrelated schools. 

“The team travels about 20 weekends a year (pre-COVID-19), and most coaches attend most of those,” Morris said. “The students rotate because we have over 25 students and can't handle more than about 12 most weekends.”

Gabe Morrison, senior philosophy major, also won the National Forensics Association Lincoln Douglas Debate Grand Prix, which is a one-on-one policy debate.

Morris said he expects most of the 2020 tournaments to take place online. A typical debate season is from mid-September to Thanksgiving and January to mid-April. 

Students do not need prior experience to join the team. 

“The MSU team is very tight-knit,” Lucas said. “It’s a relatively small group that spends lots of time socializing while also working on debate. We have squad functions all the time, and everyone has fun. We prepare for tournaments a couple of weeks out, and each person gets an assignment to do.” 

To join the debate team enroll in COM 321 or reach out to Morris, for more information.

“I would like all MSU students to know they are welcome to join the debate team,” Morris said. “We always have people join without any prior experience, and we have been able to qualify several rookies to the national tournament in their first year.”