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MJC Speech and Debate team successful at State Championship competition
MJC Speech Team at 2015 State Championships
The MJC Speech and Debate team came home with several awards from the California Community College Forensics Association State Championship. Back row (left to right) are James Baugh, Ron Thompson and Tyrus Loveless, and in the front row (left to right)are Michael Rourick, Jon Sahlman, Megan Chatelain and Caterina Grossi. - photo by Photo Contributed

The Modesto Junior College Speech and Debate team returned with armfuls of awards from their performances at the California Community College Forensics Association State Championship.

The MJC squad returned home with an array of gold, silver and bronze medals as well as a Top Speaker award and Fourth Place Team Sweepstakes from the competition, which was held last week.


The annual CCCFA state championship draws community college students from every corner of the state to engage in oratorical battles of wit in a variety of speech, dramatic, and debate events. Seven MJC students made the trip and competed in a range of events, including two debate categories. 


MJC swept parliamentary debate, bringing home first, second and third place medals.  All three of MJC’s partnerships in parliamentary debate advanced to elimination rounds, with Jon Sahlman and Michael Rourick winning gold, Megan Chatelain and Caterina Grossi achieving silver, and Ronald Thompson and James Baugh taking bronze.  In parliamentary debate, the partnered debaters from each school are given fifteen minutes to prepare arguments on a topic announced at the top of the round. This year the topics ranged from forgiving student loan debt and US drone policy to more value based topics like technology’s impact on our ability to connect with each other. 


Four out of six MJC teams advanced out of preliminary rounds in Lincoln-Douglas policy debate to compete in the highly competitive out round, and after winning the first elimination round, all four teams advanced to the gold rounds.  At the end of the day Rourick, Baugh and Sahlman all won gold medals, with Chatelain taking home a silver medal.   Lincoln-Douglas policy debate centers on a single broad topic for the entire academic season.  Students compile evidence and research in attempts to prove their stance is the right one.  This year the topic was debating the pros and the cons of developing the moon.  MJC students advocated the value of returning to the moon to collect a variety of resources that could benefit humanity. 


MJC team members were also successful in individual speech events.  In Extemporaneous speaking, Baugh captured the gold, with Chatelain and Sahlman winning silver medals.  For this event the students are given questions on issues of international and domestic policy and then have 30 minutes to research, write, practice, and perform a seven minute extemporaneous speech. 


Sahlman won gold in impromptu speech, an event in which students are given a series of famous quotations and have two minutes to write a five minute speech responding to one of the quotes. 

Grossi’s speech on cardiac gloves designed to replace pace makers brought her a bronze medal in informative speaking, an event in which students write, memorize and perfect the performance of a ten minute speech detailing new ideas, concepts, or technologies. 


Three MJC team members won bronze in persuasive speaking, an event in which students must address issues of societal harm and advocate for controversial solutions.  Grossi’s speech explored the need to remove the ban on three-parent invitro fertilization; Baugh’s speech called for national reforms of the law enforcement system known as COMPSTAT, and Sahlman’s speech advocated for an end to the special minimum wage.


The Modesto Junior College team was awarded a fourth place sweepstakes award, making it the only northern California college to win an overall sweepstakes award, and beating out some of the southern California powerhouses. 


Sahlman was also awarded the Tabor/Collins top speaker award.  This award is of special significance as it was named to honor Steve Collins, retired MJC professor and administrator who coached the MJC debate squad during the 1970s. 


Over the next three weeks the MJC squad will prepare to compete at the national Phi Rho Pi championship to be hosted in Cleveland, Ohio on April 6 -12.