The partnership of University of Nevada, Reno undergraduate students Nickie Moore and John Villanueva finished with a win in the final NPDA round of the National Online Forensics tournament April 25 and 26. This made them one of two teams to receive the "Superior" award in the festival finals.
In what was believed to be a concluded season, one last opportunity existed to compete. For Villanueva, a senior, it was an unexpected chance to finish his debate career on a high note.
Thirty schools from around the country competed in the event which was designed as an alternative for students who missed out on going to Nationals due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through massive amounts of hard work by Danny Cantrell of Mount San Antonio College and a number of other individuals, the tournament was able to convert existing tournament software into a platform capable of holding rounds online.
"Debaters speak quickly and every word matters,” Villanueva said. “Technical difficulties and bad signal make it a hard experience. Everyone involved stayed patient and understanding so things ran smoothly. I think anyone trying to teach and take classes online right now knows that feeling."
Villanueva, who has been student teaching from home since the closure of public schools, said that the challenges of using an online platform to debate were a new experience.
“Having convinced myself that my debate career was over, I had already gone through a difficult good-bye to the activity,” he said. “I entered the event with some fear that it wouldn’t go well or it might leave me with a bad last experience. But now I will always remember this accomplishment.”
Finishing with a 3-1 preliminary record, the duo advanced through the bronze round and defeated the University of California, San Diego to split the National Title with a team representing the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California, Los Angeles.
Each round, the debaters would meet up using digital software to discuss and strategize with each other and Coach Sharp. They would then head off to their debates, each remoting in from their makeshift podiums located in their homes.
“You toughed it out until the end for the crown,” Nevada Debate Team Coach Phil Sharp said. “Thank you for being incredible humans and sacrificing so much on weekends.”
Like many students these days, the two had to be resourceful to deal with other members of the house who needed the internet or couldn't be bothered by the students giving loud speeches.
Also, internet issues made for a stressful and sometimes difficult weekend.
“It was no replacement for the real thing but it was nice to be back competing,” Sharp said.
On the plus side, the one or two breaks in the schedule allowed for relaxation in the comforts of home. Sharp even made himself breakfast during a round off of judging.
Moore was recognized as sixth individual speaker and Villanueva took fourth out of the field of 36.
“I had a blast this weekend,” Moore, a junior, said. “It felt good to debate after so long and to win. I can’t wait for next year.”
In addition to the team award, Moore took outstanding award (seventh place) in IPDA debate. Villanueva took excellent award (third place) in LD.
As a result of the accomplishments of these two students doing two events each, the team was recognized as fourth place overall in four-year institutions at the event.
Due to life changes like relocation, unreliable internet and financial needs to take on jobs, other members of the team were not able to compete at the tournament.
“Congrats to the Wolf Pack on another successful season and another National Title,” Sharp said.